Vulnerability enables Passport account hijackings

A newly disclosed vulnerability could enable attackers to reset the password and hijack older Microsoft Corp. .Net Passport accounts, according to a message posted to an online software vulnerability discussion mailing list.

.Net Passport is Microsoft's online identity management service that enables customers to use a single e-mail address and account password to sign on to a variety of affiliated services and Web sites, including Microsoft's Hotmail free e-mail service.

The vulnerability is in code used to help users who have forgotten their account password.

A "Secret Question" feature that is used to validate the identity of a user who needs to reset his account password can be manipulated by attackers on .Net Passport accounts that were set up before Microsoft implemented the Secret Question feature, according to a message posted by Victor Manuel Alvarez Castro, who identified himself as a security consultant.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Accounts created since the Secret Question feature was implemented require the account owner to establish a secret question to retrieve their password, so not all .Net Passport users are affected by the flaw.

It has been "a couple of years" since the Secret Password feature was implemented, Castro said.

The vulnerability requires that attackers know both the e-mail address and home country of the account owner. In the case of U.S. based accounts, an attacker would also need the state and zip code of the account owner.

Those conditions make it more difficult to exploit the vulnerability, according to Rafael Núñez, a senior research scientist at Scientech de Venezuela in Caracas, Venezuela, who is known online as "[RaFa]."

However, given the estimated 200 million .Net Passport accounts and the length of time that services like Hotmail have been online, there may be a large number of accounts affected by the Secret Question vulnerability, Núñez said.

The attack would be especially useful for targeted attacks by those familiar with the victim, he said.

Once in control of the victim's .Net Passport account, an attacker could pose as that person online, using the victim's e-mail account or other services such as Microsoft's MSN instant messenger to pose as the victim online and perform "social engineering" attacks to collect other sensitive information, Núñez said.

This is the second vulnerability affecting .Net Passport in as many months. In May Muhammad Faisal Rauf Danka, a security researcher in Pakistan, reported a flaw in a function that enabled Passport users who had forgotten their password to change it using an e-mail message sent to an address associated with their Passport account.

The flaw enabled an attacker to have the password update e-mail sent to an e-mail address of their choice, and required little more than knowledge of their victim's e-mail address to use.

In that instance, repeated e-mail messages from Danka to Hotmail support went unanswered, prompting him to disclose the problem publicly.

Similar confusion about the correct procedure for reporting vulnerabilities may be at play in the latest revelation as well, which was not first disclosed to the Redmond, Washington, company, according to Núñez, who learned of the vulnerability from a Spanish language vulnerability discussion list on Friday.

Núñez worked with Castro to direct him to the proper security group in Redmond, but the researcher released the information on the Internet instead, he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Roberts

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Shining a light on creativity

MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?