Microsoft warns of security flaw in Windows graphics engine

Unpatched vulnerability could allow an attacker to gain access

Microsoft has released a security advisory concerning a graphics engine flaw in Windows Vista, XP and Server 2003 that could allow an attacker to gain access to a network.

The flaw is associated with the Windows graphics rendering engine, which improperly parses a specially crafted image file, leading to a stack overflow, according to Microsoft's security advisory 2490606. This remote code execution exploit can be used by a hacker to gain user rights on a system.

Microsoft's blog describing the problem states that the company isn't aware of any active exploits occurring yet. However, a few hours before Microsoft’s announcement, the hacking toolkit Metasploit Framework published an exploit for the flaw, Gregg Keizer writes in Computerworld.

The issue is made more acute if the user has administrative rights, which may allow the attacker to modify network settings or change and delete data.

Typically, an attack using this exploit would attempt to get Windows users to click on an e-mail attachment containing a thumbnail image or an instant messaging link. An alternative attack method might be to direct a user to a thumbnail image located on a network sharing space.

The security advisory suggests keeping software updated and using firewalls and antivirus software. It also describes a few workarounds to increase protection, prior to Microsoft's release of patch.

Microsoft isn't planning to release an out-of-band patch, according to the blog. However, it may release a fix in one of its monthly security update releases. It's not clear when that might happen. Microsoft suggests monitoring its Twitter feed or its MSRC security blog.

Meanwhile, software security firm Sophos reported today that hackers have been sending fake Windows updates through e-mail attachments, which is something that Microsoft does not do. The attachment installs a worm associated with a Windows autorun exploit.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is the online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group sites, including Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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