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Monday, April 25, 2005
Microsoft Confirms Dangerous Vulnerability in Windows 2000

In atypical fashion, Microsoft program manager Stephen Toulouse remarked on the issue on the Microsoft Security Response Center blog.

Microsoft has confirmed reports that a potentially dangerous security hole exists in Windows 2000 systems and that users could be at risk for attack.

Details about the vulnerability were first reported by Israel-based GreyMagic, which posted details and relevant code on its Web site.

The company issued an advisory warning users that a malicious hacker could use Windows Explorer to navigate through the Windows file system of an unsuspecting user.

Response Call
In atypical fashion, Microsoft program manager Stephen Toulouse remarked on the issue on the Microsoft Security Response Center blog . Usually, Microsoft managers do not comment on specific security issues, especially on a blog.

Toulouse noted that the issue involves the Windows shell, and the company's initial investigation found that significant user interaction would be required for an attacker to exploit the vulnerability.

Microsoft has confirmed that Windows XP , Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 are not affected by the bug.

Manager Insight "We're also looking into reports of proof of concept code that has been made public that could seek to exploit this reported vulnerability," Toulouse wrote. "On that note, we're not currently aware of any customer impact as a result or an attack that seeks to exploit this vulnerability."

Once Microsoft's investigation is complete, it might decide to provide a fix through an out-of-cycle security update, he added.

In the meantime, he recommended that users block Server Message Block communications at the firewall to protect themselves from possible attack.

Critical Eye
Microsoft has criticized GreyMagic for publishing proof-of-concept code with its advisory, a move that is more true to form for the company, said Secunia security researcher Thomas Kristensen.

"Microsoft very much believes that code should not be made available and freely disclosed in the security community," he said.

As the debate rages over whether to disclose code, the fact remains that Microsoft patches for vulnerabilities like the Windows 2000 flaw are closely watched, Kristensen noted.

"We would hope that Microsoft would release a patch for this quickly," he said. "Microsoft vulnerabilities affect too many people to go unpatched for too long."

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