New attacks leverage unpatched IE flaw, Microsoft warns

Google disclosed the Internet Explorer bug in January, but it's now being used in targeted attacks

An Internet Explorer flaw made public by a Google security researcher two months ago is now being used in online attacks.

The flaw, which has not yet been patched, has been used in "limited, targeted attacks," Microsoft said Friday in an update to its security advisory on the issue.

Google concurred, and offered a few more details. "We've noticed some highly targeted and apparently politically motivated attacks against our users," Google said in blog post. "We believe activists may have been a specific target. We've also seen attacks against users of another popular social site."

The attack is triggered when the victim is tricked into visiting a maliciously encoded Web page -- what's known as a Web drive-by attack. It gives the attacker a way of hijacking the victims browser and accessing Web applications without authorization.

The flaw lies in the Windows mshtml.dll software library used by Internet Explorer, and affects all currently supported versions of Windows.

Microsoft has released a Fixit tool that users can download to repair the problem, but has not said when, or even if, it plans to push out a comprehensive security update to all users.

The bug has been a bone of contention between Google and Microsoft. On January 1, Google engineer Michal Zalewski released a hacking tool that could be used to find the bug, along with some technical details, saying that he was concerned that Chinese hackers may have already discovered the problem. He said that he warned Microsoft about the flaw back in July. Microsoft maintains that it was unable to reproduce the problem until December.

Google isn't saying who exactly was targeted in this latest incident, but Chinese activist groups have been the focus of cyber attacks in the past. This may be another example of an ongoing and methodical effort to track and steal information from pro-democracy and Tibetan activists.

Zalewski referred an inquiry to Google's public relations team, which declined to comment further on the matter.

Now that the flaw is being exploited in attacks, the pressure is mounting on Microsoft to produce a reliable patch for the issue that can be pushed out to hundreds of millions of customers.

"For now, we recommend concerned users and corporations seriously consider deploying Microsoft's temporary Fixit to block this attack until an official patch is available," Google said.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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.

Tags MicrosoftbrowsersGooglesoftwareapplicationsExploits / vulnerabilities

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

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

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

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 ›

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

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?