Microsoft: Flame exploits Windows flaw

2012-06-04 22:46

Boston - Microsoft warned PC users that the Flame virus that attacked systems across the Middle East infects computers by exploiting a flaw in the Windows operating system.

The company released software to protect against infections exploiting the previously undisclosed flaw.

Mike Reavey, a senior director with Microsoft's Security Response Centre, said in a blog post that he feared that other hackers might be able to copy the technique to launch more widespread attacks with other types of viruses.

"We continue to investigate this issue and will take any appropriate actions to help protect customers," Reavey said in the blog post.

A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to elaborate. She would not comment on whether other viruses had exploited the same flaw in Windows or if the company's security team was looking for similar bugs in the operating system.

The flaw enabled Flame to install itself on computers by tricking Windows into believing that the malicious software was a legitimate programme from Microsoft, Reavey said in the blog, which was published late on Sunday.

News of the Flame virus, which surfaced a week ago, generated headlines around the world as researchers said that technical evidence suggests it was built on behalf of the same nation or nations that commissioned the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran's nuclear programme in 2010.

Ryan Smith, chief research scientist with security firm Accuvant, said the discovery of the Microsoft flaw was also significant.

"The Windows vulnerability in and of itself is a big story," said Smith, whose customers include large corporations. He added that it is possible other highly sophisticated pieces of malware may have also exploited the same flaw and be invisible to the users of the systems they have infected.

When customers install the software on infected computers, such viruses would either stop working or they might become invisible, Smith said.

  • WitWolf - 2012-06-04 23:04

    Use Unix (MAC or Linux) Problem solved.

      placebo.effect - 2012-06-04 23:44

      Mac is not immune to viruses... imbecile.

      Dakey - 2012-06-05 00:22

      I did. I spent the next day trying to find my C: I reinstalled Windows.

      FoodforThought - 2012-06-05 06:30

      Yep that is once you have gone to MAC, you dare not go BACK... Microsoft remains the best marketing tool for MAC...

      Jan - 2012-06-05 07:40

      @Dakeyras Ha ha! Did the same thing!

      Holdanigono - 2012-06-05 08:12

      Write a platform that can support the Adobe suite and I will use Unix. Until then it will have to be Microsoft.

      Anakin - 2012-06-05 08:16

      How do I look at the Giza map in 3d using Linux? >

      duncangareth - 2012-06-19 14:39

      The whole idea of "logical device names" like a:, b:, lpt1:, prn:, c:, etc., was a lousy idea in the early eighties, and it's still a lousy idea.

  • WitWolf - 2012-06-05 07:03

    Flame virus on MAC or Linux yet? Are they as vulnerable as Windows?

      loodpil.lipdool - 2012-06-05 07:53

      Only real deduction one can make is that Windows users have stuff worth spying on ? Windows gets targeted more because its a more prevalent OS. Seems like nobody cares what MAC users are doing.

  • Mark - 2012-06-05 07:36

    The only reason Windows is more vulnerable to viruses is that there are more Windows PC's out there than Macs. The hackers who create these viruses realise this and therefore create viruses for Windows so that they can spread more easily.

      Mark - 2012-06-05 08:36

      @william.both.9 instead of the negative remark why don't you elaborate and teach us all something.

      duncangareth - 2012-06-19 14:19

      GNU/Linux and FSF software tends to be purpose-written, rather than for mercenary reasons. UNIX and its offspring, Linux, were designed as multi-user, multitasking systems from the outset, as opposed to Windows, which "evolved" from a single-user singletasking system (DOS) to its current bloated self, which manages a few tasks before it runs out of resources, and supposedly supports multiple users, but only on "server" licenses, which are rather expensive. As far as viruses are concerned, the design of UNIX or Linux makes it almost impossible to implement such software, unless, like Apple, corporate blindness and user-condescending arrogance lead to such nonsensical entities as "default" passwords and the like. "Mac" viruses are usually in the form of trojans and need to be unleashed by a superuser so if the setup has lax security then systems may be compromised. In my experience, Linux and UNIX systems are most commonly compromised by crackers with considerable technical knowledge working in conjunction with lazy users who couldn't be bothered with creating decent passwords for themselves. What is more common, though, is that imperfectly designed applications with privileged access to system resources may be exploited by crackers who may be aware that the software has "memory leaks" so that it may be feasible to run some foreign code given the correct combination of circumstances. This is why Microsoft releases lots of "security updates."

  • badballie - 2012-06-05 10:44

    The Stuxnet virus was admitted to be a joint US and Israeli project, which they admit escaped into the wild, that a layman already knows that these things will always find a way to escape brings the mentality and humanity of these countries into serious question.

  • leighbrendonbarnes - 2012-06-05 10:49

    @Paul - You may want to go and actually look into that mac virus bud, all it did was hijack page DNS links thus costing the online add disto networks. I run Linux / Mac / Win... But when i go home at night from sorting out the issues relating to data and security, do you know what machine I pull out to surf the net or use as my personal capacity. MAC... I have had machines with the top ( highest priced - corporate ) antivirus and had them go down with random viri. Nothing is safe, I just hate having to work to make my machine run. Its 2012 ffs machines should do what you tell them.

  • duncangareth - 2012-06-19 13:54

    Ha ha ha. "Microsoft Security" - a true oxymoron, like "military intelligence".

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