Check Your Exposure to Microsoft Flaw
There has been quite a bit of concern in the past 48 hours over the release of an exploit for a newly discovered critical security hole in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser that could let nasty Web sites seize control over visitors' computers.
Microsoft says it is still investigating the vulnerability, and yesterday published some information about which of its systems are vulnerable to this threat.
Microsoft acknowledged Monday that even computers running Windows XP with the latest patch and security bundle (a.k.a. Service Pack 2) are exposed to this flaw if they surf the Web with IE. The SANS Internet Storm Center changed its "infocon" status from green to yellow last night because Microsoft has not yet released a fix.
And once again, Security Fix notes that while the Department of Homeland Security's US-CERT also warns about this threat, it still does not suggest that users even consider cruising the Web with any other browser.
Now, the folks at the Storm Center have put up a simple script that shows site visitors whether they are vulnerable to this latest exploit (that is, whether the site could have taken complete control over your machine if it were so inclined.)
Look at the area near the top center of the page, under the pink text box (see screen shot at right). You may have to refresh or reload the page after initialy visiting the site to see your diagnosis. If you browse the site with IE, chances are it will say you are vulnerable. If you go there in any other browser, most likely it will say you're okay.
As of this writing, nearly 50 percent of those who visited the site since midnight were using IE and were vulnerable to this attack. Considering the background of the folks most likely to browse the Storm Center regularly, that is a troubling percentage.
Johannes Ullrich, chief technology officer for the Storm Center, said the site regularly gets 30,000 to 40,000 unique visitors per day. About 40 percent of visitors browse it using Firefox, Ullrich said, while another 3 percent use Opera (neither browser is vulnerable to this flaw.)
Browser flaws -- especially those that allow attackers to install software and grab control of the victim's machine -- are nearly always first seized upon by purveyors of adware and spyware, but they can also be used to plant viruses, worms and "Trojan horse" programs as well.
In this case, the exploit released for this vulnerability is exceedingly easy to use. If the admittedly small sample size evidenced by the SANS experiment is any indicator, this flaw could very soon create some serious problems for IE users.
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