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Bad September for Microsoft Security, Symantec Buyout Rumours

Posted in Microsoft, Rumour, Security, Windows at 3:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

buying a book

Summary: As loads of security problems occupy the world of Windows, Microsoft resorts to seeking help from security firms it competes with and more botnets thrive nonetheless

Microsoft is having a tough month dealing with many security problems caused by its own weaknesses. This post is a quick accumulation of some issues from the past 2 weeks.


Earlier in the month we wrote about the ‘Here You Have’ virus, which got a lot of news coverage [1, 2, 3]. It was politically motivated:

THE HACKER claiming credit for the ‘Here you have’ Trojan, written as a blow against the invasion and occupation of Iraq, might be located in Spain.

Cisco says that this virus caused brief havoc. It affects everyone to a certain extent.


Stuxnet is real bummer which we covered in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. “Holes used by the Stuxnet worm remain in Windows XP,” said this recent report (there are more) and it is exploiting zero-day flaws. Microsoft liaises with Kaspersky in hopes of tackling this problem. Eventually some patches arrived [1, 2, 3, 4] but only after a lot of damage had been done. It turns out that Symantec — not just Kaspersky — helped Microsoft here:

Microsoft has credited security partners at Kaspersky Lab and Symantec for helping to close a critical Windows vulnerability that was being exploited by a sophisticated worm that has attacked industrial plant


Earlier this month Symantec created a tie-up with Microsoft’s Fog Computing [1, 2]. Then came speculations that Microsoft was looking to buy Symantec. It was just a rumour (likely false), but investors took it seriously and Symantec surged [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. The stock being driven up like this may always lead to suspicion that someone spread the rumour just to make money in a short-term period. That’s illegal of course and the SEC should keep an eye open.

Speaking of acquisitions by Microsoft, “PopCap Rejected $5 Million Microsoft Buyout” says this one report among many more [1, 2,
3]. This one says that “Microsoft tried to convince PopCap it was only worth $5 million, but the studio didn’t believe it.” To quote another item, ‘During an interview with Develop, Jason Kapalka, creative director at PopCap, explained how even Microsoft tried to buy them, but the offer price was a joke: “We had a couple of funny instances in the early years of PopCap where we were talking to Microsoft about a possible acquisition – I think it was in 2002 – and they sat us down and gave us this long speech about why our company was worth 5 million dollars, at a time when we had four million in the bank.”‘


Back to insecurity, an older rogue antivirus attack gave trouble to Windows users this month [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. It’s a form of malware. In an operating system where antivirus software is not necessary, this would hardly be an issue.


Microsoft is acknowledging that there is a security problem with ASP.NET, as mentioned here last week.

Microsoft has released a security advisory about a vulnerability affecting Web applications built on ASP.NET.

Here is another article about it.

It’s already being exploited, based on today’s reports:

Attackers have begun exploiting a recently disclosed vulnerability in Microsoft web-development applications that opens password files and other sensitive data to interception and tampering.

The vulnerability in the way ASP.Net apps encrypt data was disclosed last week at the Ekoparty Conference in Argentina. Microsoft on Friday issued a temporary fix for the so-called “cryptographic padding attack,” which allows attackers to decrypt protected files by sending vulnerable systems large numbers of corrupted requests.

Now, Microsoft security pros say they are seeing “limited attacks” in the wild and warned that they can be used to read and tamper with a system’s most sensitive configuration files.


There are many new stories about malware, such as:

i. Report: More Than 1 Million Web Sites Serving Malware in Q2 [via]

Web anti malware firm Dasient has published data claiming that more than 1 million Web sites were compromised in the second quarter, 2010 – a sharp increase.

More than one million Web domains were infected with malicious code in the second quarter of 2010 – around one percent of all active Web domains, according to data released by Web security firm Dasient, Inc.

ii. Pirate Bay beset by tainted ads

The tainted ads exposed visiting surfers to Windows Trojans via drive-by download attacks. Pirate Bay has experienced similar problems in the past, and it’s unclear how long it will take to clear up the latest issues.

iii. Study: 33% of SMBs Have Been Infected With Malware From Social Networks

About one-third of small and medium-sized businesses have been infected with malware from social networks like Facebook and Twitter, according to a recent study released by Panda Security, a company specializing in cloud security.

iv. Windows malware dwarfs other viral threats

The vast majority of malware – more than 99 per cent – targets Windows PCs, according to a new survey by German anti-virus firm G-Data.

G-Data reckons 99.4 per cent of all new malware of the first half of 2010 targeted Microsoft’s operating system. Just 0.6 per cent of the 1,017,208 new malware programs discovered in 1H2010 targeted other systems, such as Apple Mac boxes and servers running Unix.


When one in two Windows computers is said to be a zombie PC, there is clearly a problem, especially when it goes on for years, still unresolved. Some of the latest Windows botnets stories are:

i. A botnet for hire springs up

Insecurity outfit Damballa revealed that the creatively named IMDDOS (I’m DDoS) botnet can be hired out as “pressure test software” by those who are willing to cough up some cash and download an application. The application is little more than dialogue box allowing the user to point the botnet to a particular IP address and port number and start hitting it with spurious requests.

ii. Microsoft Helps Cox Identify Infected Computers

iii. Microsoft gets legal might to target spamming botnets

iv. Microsoft gets superweapon for fighting botnets

Internet Explorer 8

The very latest version of Internet Explorer is still not so widely adopted because of Microsoft’s hostility towards the Web which it still cannot reverse. Here is the latest vulnerability in Internet Explorer 8 [1, 2].

Late last week, a security flaw in Internet Explorer 8 was publicly disclosed to the Full Disclosure mailing list. The flaw allows attackers to steal private information from online services such as web mail and Twitter, allowing attackers to, for example, delete e-mails or send tweets from their victims’ accounts.


“Microsoft Exchange opens the door for hackers,” says The Inquirer.

FIRMS RUNNING Microsoft’s Exchange mail server could find that users of its Outlook Web Access (OWA) software have their sessions hijacked.

A security vulnerability in Exchange Server 2003 SP2 and Exchange Server 2007 SP1 and SP2 means that attackers can take control of a user’s OWA session and issue commands up to the level permitted by security controls without the user knowing. OWA is a rich ‘web mail’ client that is offered by Exchange Server and has the look and feel of Microsoft’s standalone Outlook software.

According to this, a well-selling Linux phone (not Ballnux) suffers from its reliance on Exchange.

There are rumors that the possible technical problem with the Microsoft Exchange is causing the delay of Android 2.2 Froyo push to Motorola Droid X devices. Multiple news outlets including Droid Life has confirmed the news.

Who needs Exchange anyway? It’s just a brand. Android can do better than that and also avert the security problems.

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