Windows attack code out, but not being used

Metasploit module is considered unreliable by security experts

It has been a week since hackers released software that could be used to attack a flaw in Windows Vista and Server 2008, but Microsoft and security companies say that criminals haven't done much with the attack.

Late Monday, Microsoft said it hadn't seen any attacks that used the vulnerability, an analysis that was echoed by security companies such as SecureWorks, Symantec and Verisign's iDefense unit.

While criminals jumped on a similar flaw a year ago, using it in widespread attacks that ultimately forced Microsoft to rush out a security patch ahead of its monthly set of security updates, that hasn't happened with this latest bug, which lies in the SMB v2 software used by Vista and Server 2008 to do file-and-printer sharing.

SecureWorks researcher Bow Sineath said Tuesday that there are several reasons why this latest attack has not been picked up. Perhaps the main reason is that the Metasploit code doesn't work as reliably as last year's MS08-067 attack, and often causes the computer to simply crash instead of running the hacker's software.

SMB v2 is typically blocked at the firewall, and it does not ship with Windows XP, meaning that the Metasploit attack will not work on the majority of PCs. Vista, the only Windows client that is vulnerable to the attack, is used on about 19 percent of computers that surf the Web, according to Web analytics firm Net Applications. Windows XP runs on 72 percent of PCs.

Because of all of these factors, the SMB v2 flaw is simply not "all that popular of a target," Sineath said.

Last week, Dave Aitel, CEO of security tool vendor Immunity, predicted that Microsoft would not need to patch the bug ahead of its scheduled Oct. 13 security patch date.

The Metasploit attack makes certain assumptions about the computer's memory that allow it to work in certain hardware configurations, but in many situations, it simply doesn't work, Aitel said.

"I asked the Immunity team to take a look into the new exploit to assess whether Microsoft would patch the SMB v2 bug early, and our initial assessment is 'No, they will not,'" he wrote in a discussion list post last Tuesday. "Working around this issue in the current public exploit is probably two weeks of work. At that point, we're nearing Microsoft Tuesday and the need for an out-of-band patch is moot."

The Metasploit team is still working on its attack, however. On Sunday, Metasploit posted details of a new way of exploiting the bug and said it was working on a module that takes advantage of this so-called trampoline technique.

If the trampoline method works and makes the Metasploit attack more reliable, criminals are likely to start using it, SecureWorks said.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Windows Vistasecuritywindows server 2008metasploit

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.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

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 x360

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 910

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.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?