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April 7th, 2008

ActiveX bugs Are Targeted In A New Attack Kit

A new multiple-attack package composed of seven ActiveX exploits is used by hackers, many of them never seen in the wild before. Fewer than half of the flawed ActiveX controls have been patched.

The attack framework probes Windows PCs for vulnerable ActiveX controls from software vendors Microsoft, Citrix Systems and Macrovision, as well as hardware makers D-Link Corp., Hewlett-Packard, Gateway and Sony. Visitors to compromised websites are redirected by a rogue IFRAME to a malicious site serving the package. The attack pack tests the victim’s PC for each ActiveX control, detects whether a vulnerable version of a control is installed, and then launches an attack when it finds one.

The seven exploited in the package outlined by Jungles are a mix of old and brand-new flaws. For example, Microsoft’s own ActiveX vulnerability, a bug in IE’s Speech API, was disclosed in June 2007, while the vulnerability in the Citrix Presentation Server Client control harks back even further, to December 2006. Others, such as the ActiveX bugs in D-Link’s security webcams and in Sony’s ImageStation, are much more recent, having been revealed in February. Four of the seven ActiveX flaws, those in the D-Link, Gateway, Sony and Macrovision products, have not been patched.

Bugs in ActiveX, a Microsoft technology used most often to create add-ons for the company’s Internet Explorer browser, have always been common, but so many serious flaws have been disclosed of late that some security experts have recommended that users do without them.

Assuming the exploit framework succeeds in compromising a PC, the hackers drop a Trojan on the machine that turns it into a spam-sending zombie. The Trojan includes a rootkit component to mask the malware from antivirus scanners.

While the initial IP address that sent users to the malicious site was no longer infected with the IFRAME code, other addresses were redirecting users. The list of IPs involved in the exploitation is by no means comprehensive because the nature of the exploitation indicates that several other sites are likely forwarding victims. The IFRAME code had been found embedded in the legitimate sites HTML and was at times distributed via online advertisements. DNS poisoning was also suspected.

Users are recommended to apply patches when they’re available, and set the “kill bit” on those ActiveX controls that have not yet been updated by their makers.

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