Saturday, January 1, 2011

Microsoft Warns On New Browser Vulnerability

Microsoft on Wednesday issued a security advisory to users of its Internet Explorer Web browser about a newly disclosed vulnerability that could be exploited and used to run malicious code on vulnerable Windows systems.

The Redmond, Washington company said it is investigating new, public reports of a vulnerability in all supported versions of IE. The company said it is working on a patch and cooperating with anti malware vendors in its Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) and Microsoft Security Response Alliance to help expedite the distribution of protections against exploits using the hole. However, the company cautioned that the newly discovered vulnerability is not serious enough to warrant an out of cycle patch.

As reported by Threatpost, the new vulnerability was first disclosed by the IT security firm Vupen on December 9 and affects most versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser. If exploited, the hole could allow remote attackers to circumvent defensive features in fully patched WIndows 7 and Windows Vista machines, and attack Microsoft's latest version of Internet Explorer, IE8 to run malicious code on vulnerable systems.

The company, based in Montpellier, France, said it had discovered a "use-after-free" error in the mshtml.dll library - IE's HTML rendering engine - that could allow attackers to take complete control of a vulnerable system.Use-after-free errors happen when a program continues using a pointer to an area of computer memory after that memory has been freed. In cases, the freed memory can be re-allocated and used to launch attacks, such as buffer overflows, that can result in malicious code being run on a vulnerable system, according to OWASP.In this case, the flaw could be exploited when IE loaded specially formated Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) files that included @import rules, which allow Web sites to incorporate style sheets from external sites.

The vulnerability is what is describes as a "use-after-free" error in the mshtml.dll library - IE's HTML rendering engine. Use-after-free errors happen when a program continues using a pointer to an area of computer memory after that memory has been freed. In cases, the freed memory can be re-allocated and used to launch attacks, such as buffer overflows, that can result in malicious code being run on a vulnerable system, according to OWASP.

In this case, the flaw could be exploited when IE loads specially formated Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) files that included @import rules, which allow Web sites to incorporate style sheets from external sites, Vupen said.

In its advisory, Microsoft said that existing features like IE Protected Mode and the default Enhanced Security Configuration for newer versions of IE on Windows Server 2003 and 2008 would mitigate the impact of the vulnerability by reducing the privileges that attackers have on Windows systems should they successfully compromise IE.

However, a version of a public exploit has already been added to the Metasploit Framework, a free testing tool. That, when combined with other attack techniques, could allow attackers to circumvent more recent Microsoft protections such as  Data Execution Protection (DEP) and Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), which are specifically designed to thwart malicious code.

In a separate post, Fermin J. Serna, a Security Software Engineer at Microsoft explained how those technologies might be circumented and suggested a workaround to prevent them from being defeated in an attack using the new IE hole.

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Friday, December 31, 2010

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The Departed: Microsoft Executive Exits In The Post-Vista Era

Windows Vista officially launched on Jan. 30, 2007, and subsequently became one of the most heavily criticized Microsoft products ever released. Thanks to the recent release of the acclaimed and fast-selling Windows 7, Vista is now a distant memory -- for the most part. But a number of high-profile and important executives in Redmond, Wash., have left Microsoft since Vista came on the scene. Some executives have retired, such as Bill Gates and Jim Allchin, while others have resigned (or "retired" with quotes) and joined another company, and a few have been let go, forced out or fired. Some of the executives were Microsoft veterans, while others were newcomers. The one thing they all share is they left the company after Vista arrived. Here's a look at some of the big names no longer with Microsoft.

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10 New Features in Microsoft Windows Vista

The curiosity levels and buzz regarding Windows Vista is probably greater than the news that spread when man landed on the moon. Extensively discusses and analyzed Microsoft’s Windows Vista is scheduled for an end 2006 release with the corporate version coming first. According to reports Windows Vista is all set to satisfy every need:
1. Security is comprehensive and takes care of every imaginable problem. Windows and spyware library are streamlined as also administrator tools.

2. The back up software is state-of –art and computer systems can be installed across several states and countries within a company by simple creating an image.

3. Windows side bar is atoll that has been designed to provide regular or continuous updates on weather, stock movements, temperature, sports scores and more. This just means you will be able to keep a tab on these while you are working on the main screen.

4. The internet explorer 7 has enhanced privacy management and security functions are all at the next level. The color coded address bar will indicate whether a page is designed to “phish” information or whether it is authentic.

5. A feature awaited for with bated breath is high-end graphics and aero-glass interface with great 3D rendering, animation, and effects. Translucent icons and other elements are all the latest technology and allow functions like viewing real time on minimized windows without opening programs. The Windows Vista is designed for people who multitask.

6. Integrated desktop search will allow powerful indexing, user specific searches and data access, and ease of filing and storing much used URLs. Searches can be extended to other PCs on the network by using Windows Longhorn.

7. Updates are streamlined and can be done directly without the use of Internet Explorer. A key component of the new system is said to be Windows Defender.

8. Windows Vista brings with it updated and revolutionary Windows Media Player, with an MP3 library. The Windows Photo Gallery in Vista brings photo library functionality and in Vista photos can get mega tags, titles, ratings, and what are more there are systems that allow limited editing and printing too.

9. Windows Vista recognizes parental concerns regarding computers and the World Wide Web. The new software has enhanced systems that allow greater parental control. Parents can limit access to files, and web pages, block sites, lock downloads, and screen objectionable content. Guess what even games can be blocked based on the game’s Entertainment Software

10. Back ups are visionary in Windows Vista. The system can be set to take periodic snapshots of your whole operating system as well as files. This means in case of total break down you will not loose any data or software. Windows Vista brings great news for business users. It not just facilitates P2P collaboration, but Vista users can share files and other data across the network. It allows even a mobile workforce to utilize computers while traveling. Although there are releases, reviews, and speculation one needs to wait until Windows Vista is in actual use to judge how many hopes and promises are going to come true.

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Microsoft Windows Vista – Four Years On

Microsoft Windows Vista – the operating system that has been known more for its malfunctioning and loopholes than the amazing new set of features that it came with is now  four years old. It was in November 2006 that Microsoft released, what it called the “highest quality version of Windows that we’ve ever produced“, for manufacturing.

While the malfunctions of Vista have been pretty well documented, it also needs to be noted that this was still only a topic of discussion among nerds and that the notoreity that the software did not affect the sale of Vista units itself significantly. Also, with the majority of issues being ironed out with the release of SP1, users did not have much to complain about.

Nevertheless, with the success of its successor, Windows 7, it is safe to assume that Microsoft’s nightmares with the release of Vista are well and truly over. Keep yourself updated on all the technology news by following us on Twitter or by joining us on our Facebook Page.

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