Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Another Internet Explorer Hole

This Slashdot thread discusses a new Internet Explorer hole posted to NT-BugTraq. A good story at Infoworld makes these comments:

"This hole could easily be combined with another Explorer spoofing problem discovered in December.

The previous spoofing problem allowed Explorer users to think they were visiting one site when in fact they were visiting somewhere entirely different. The implications are not only troublesome, but Microsoft’s failure to include a fix for the problem in its January patches has led many to believe it cannot be prevented.

If the same is true for this spoofing issue, then it will only be a matter of time before someone who thinks they are visiting one website and downloading one file will in fact be visiting somewhere entirely different and downloading whatever that site’s owner decides.

We also have reason to believe there is no fix. It may be that today’s flaw is identical to one found nearly three years ago by Georgi Guninski in which double-clicking a link in Explorer led you to believe you were downloading a text file but were in fact downloading a .hta file.

In both cases, the con is created by embedding a CLSID into a file name. CLSID is a long numerical string that relates to a particular COM (Component Object Model) object. COM objects are what Microsoft uses to build applications on the Internet. By doing so, any type of file can be made to look like a “trusted” file type i.e. text or pdf.

Guninski informed Microsoft in April 2001. The fact that the issue has been born afresh suggests rather heavily that the software giant has no way of preventing this from happening. "

This is ridiculous. How long will corporate America tolerate this before abandoning Internet Explorer for Mozilla? Unfortunately, in complete violation of all good software design principles, IE is tightly integrated into the Windows desktop. Running Mozilla is only part of the solution. Abandoning Microsoft for Mac OS X on the desktop is a better idea. I run FreeBSD 5.2 on my laptop but that's not the best idea for normal consumers.

For another essay on fundamental Windows flaws, read Shatter Attacks - How to Break Windows.

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