Microsoft talks up countermeasures to fend off IE attacks

Recommends several moves, with no word on when a patch will be ready

Microsoft warned users of Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) late Wednesday that attackers are actively exploiting a critical bug in the browser, and urged them to take countermeasures in lieu of a patch.

In a late-Wednesday security advisory, Microsoft officially acknowledged the flaw. "We are aware only of limited attacks that attempt to use this vulnerability," the company said, adding that users running IE7 in Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 are at risk.

As is its practice, however, the company was vague about whether it would patch the problem, and if so, when. "On completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to protect our customers, which may include providing a solution through a service pack, our monthly security update release process, or an out-of-cycle security update, depending on customer needs."

The last time that Microsoft went off its usual once-a-month security update schedule was in late October, when it issued an emergency patch for a bug in Windows that was also being exploited in the wild.

In one way, Microsoft downplayed the threat posed by the IE7 bug, which independent researchers have said is in a browser rendering component , and is triggered by misuse of the HTML "span" tag.

"Our investigation of these attacks so far has verified that they are not successful against customers who have applied the workarounds listed in this advisory," Microsoft said. "Additionally, there are mitigations that increase the difficulty of exploiting this vulnerability."

The company spelled out three things IE7 users can do to protect themselves:

Set "Internet" and "Local internet" security zones to "high." To do that, users must select "Internet Options" from the Tools menu, click the Security tab, click on "Internet," then move the slider to the "High" setting. Repeat for "Local intranet." Click OK.

Disable Active Scripting. Choose "Internet Options" from the Tools menu, click the Security tab, click the "Internet" icon and then the "Custom level" button. In the ensuing dialog, under the "Scripting" section, in the "Active scripting" item, click "Disable," then OK.

Enable DEP (data execution prevention). Select "Internet Options" from the Tools menu, click the Advanced tab, then check "Enable memory protection to help mitigate online attacks." Click OK.

Although multiple exploits have surfaced, all are effective against only IE7. Researchers, including those at Microsoft, are still investigating whether the older IE6 also contains the same vulnerability.

"The information posted in Microsoft's security advisory is what the company knows to be true at this time, [but] Microsoft continues to investigate this vulnerability," a company spokesman replied in an e-mail when asked whether Microsoft had found a similar bug in IE6. "If Microsoft can confirm new information based on its ongoing investigation, it will update the security advisory as necessary."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet Explorer

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?