Microsoft was aware of the WMF vulnerability “for years”



Bugtraq has an interesting post which picks up on a note in Stephen Toulouse’s latest entry on the WMF vulnerability. When I first read the post I was more interested in the way he was responding to allegations of the flaw being an intentional backdoor, but the above bugtraq post points out and makes points on an implication that I missed….. (emphasis is mine…)

“The potential danger of this type of metafile record was
recognized
and some applications (Internet Explorer, notably)
will not process any metafile record of type META_ESCAPE,
the overall type of the SetAbortProc record.”


So, if it’s a potential danger – why hasn’t it been a policy across all applications and not just Internet Explorer?….

Anyway, the post, by Richard M. Smith makes some interesting points…

1. Given the obvious dangers with SetAbortProc records, why
didn’t Microsoft simply disable the feature in the Windows
operating system altogether and come up alternate for
aborting printing of WMF files? Why were all the inadequate
work-arounds in application code pursued instead?

2. How come word about the dangers of the WMF file
format did not make it to the Windows NT, 2000, and XP
development teams as well as the team responsible for
the Picture and FAX viewer?

3. Given the history of problems with WMF files, why
hasn’t support for them been removed from Internet
Explorer? Also shouldn’t WMF files be marked in
the registry as not safe-for-downloading?

What’s worrisome of course, is we KNOW about this one now, I wonder how many things like this are out there that we aren’t yet publicly aware of. This is again, a real problem with the closed source approach, you’re relying on information to stay secret that’s in a product that is widely available… or at least hope that the makers of the product are aware of AND FIX any vulnerabilities before it’s widely known.

What this says to me is that Microsoft, being aware of the “potential danger” COULD have patched this a long time ago. They probably chose not to, as they do with many issues because, it was “not actively being exploited”.

How many other areas does Microsoft see “potential dangers” in that they don’t publicly talking about?

What really gets under my skin about this is finding this out not far on the heels of all the articles that I read about “Windows more secure than Linux” and the ummm…. various interpretations of US-CERT’s vulnerability announcements. I’ve seen the bug reports of many Linux security vulnerabilities, read the mailing list discussions, etc. etc. and by and large when ANYONE says, “you know this….. could be a problem, someone MAY be able to find a way to use this to run code| escalate privilige| crash a system|etc…” it is taken VERY seriously. I can’t think of one security bug that I’ve seen an open source developer say, “well…. no one seems to be exploiting it, so we’ll just leave it there….” They usually do a patch to fix it and move on (after releasing a notice for everyone to step up to the newest maintenance version….) /vent…

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