Bill Gates Strikes Again

Microsoft warns of serious computer security hole

Microsoft Corp. has taken the rare step of warning about a serious computer security vulnerability it hasn’t fixed yet.

The vulnerability disclosed Monday affects Internet Explorer users whose computers run the Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 operating software.

It can allow hackers to remotely take control of victims’ machines. The victims don’t need to do anything to get infected except visit a Web site that’s been hacked.

Security experts say criminals have been attacking the vulnerability for nearly a week. Thousands of sites have been hacked to serve up malicious software that exploits the vulnerability. People are drawn to these sites by clicking a link in spam e-mail.

The so-called “zero day” vulnerability disclosed by Microsoft affects a part of its software used to play video. The problem arises from the way the software interacts with Internet Explorer, which opens a hole for hackers to tunnel into.

Microsoft urged vulnerable users to disable the problematic part of its software, which can be done from Microsoft’s Web site, while the company works on a “patch” — or software fix — for the problem.

See also:
Microsoft Security Advisory (972890)
Microsoft: Attacks on Unpatched Windows Flaw
Windows users ambushed by attack on fresh IE flaw
Hackers exploit second DirectShow zero-day using thousands of hijacked sites
New attack code targets Microsoft ActiveX zero-day vulnerability
Zero-Day Video Exploit Hits Windows XP
Zero-day Windows flaw fuels IE attacks

/let’s have a big round of applause for Bill and his magnificent software

Hacking The Hackers

Vast spy system loots computers in 103 countries

A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.

In a report to be issued this weekend, the researchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China, but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved.

The researchers, who are based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

Their sleuthing opened a window into a broader operation that, in less than two years, has infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London, and New York.

The researchers, who have a record of detecting computer espionage, said they believed that in addition to the spying on the Dalai Lama, the system, which they called GhostNet, was focused on the governments of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

Intelligence analysts say many governments, including those of China, Russia and the United States, and other parties use sophisticated computer programs to covertly gather information.

The newly reported spying operation is by far the largest to come to light in terms of countries affected.

This is also believed to be the first time researchers have been able to expose the workings of a computer system used in an intrusion of this magnitude.

Still going strong, the operation continues to invade and monitor more than a dozen new computers a week, the researchers said in their report, “Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network.” They said they had found no evidence that United States government offices had been infiltrated, although a NATO computer was monitored by the spies for half a day and computers of the Indian Embassy in Washington were infiltrated.

The malware is remarkable both for its sweep–in computer jargon, it has not been merely “phishing” for random consumers’ information, but “whaling” for particular important targets–and for its Big Brother-style capacities. It can, for example, turn on the camera and audio-recording functions of an infected computer, enabling monitors to see and hear what goes on in a room. The investigators say they do not know if this facet has been employed.

The researchers were able to monitor the commands given to infected computers and to see the names of documents retrieved by the spies, but in most cases the contents of the stolen files have not been determined. Working with the Tibetans, however, the researchers found that specific correspondence had been stolen and that the intruders had gained control of the electronic mail server computers of the Dalai Lama’s organization.

The electronic spy game has had at least some real-world impact, they said. For example, they said, after an e-mail invitation was sent by the Dalai Lama’s office to a foreign diplomat, the Chinese government made a call to the diplomat discouraging a visit. And a woman working for a group making Internet contacts between Tibetan exiles and Chinese citizens was stopped by Chinese intelligence officers on her way back to Tibet, shown transcripts of her online conversations and warned to stop her political activities.

The Toronto researchers said they had notified international law enforcement agencies of the spying operation, which in their view exposed basic shortcomings in the legal structure of cyberspace. The FBI declined to comment on the operation.

See also:
Canadian researchers uncover vast computer spying operation
China-based spies target computers across globe
Massive Chinese computer espionage network uncovered
GhostNet: Turning Computers into Giant Bugs
International Phishing Operation – GhostNet
Researchers: Cyber spies break into govt computers
Munk Centre for International Studies
Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network
Ronald J. Deibert
Nart Villeneuve
Rafal Rohozinski
Spear Phishing and Whaling Attacks Reach Record Levels

/yesh, I’m sure the Chinese government has absolutely nothing do do with this