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Microsoft Security Advisory 980088

Vulnerability in Internet Explorer Could Allow Information Disclosure

Published: February 03, 2010 | Updated: June 09, 2010

Microsoft is investigating a publicly reported vulnerability in Internet Explorer for customers running Windows XP or who have disabled Internet Explorer Protected Mode. This advisory contains information about which versions of Internet Explorer are vulnerable as well as workarounds and mitigations for this issue.

Our investigation so far has shown that if a user is using a version of Internet Explorer that is not running in Protected Mode an attacker may be able to access files with an already known filename and location. These versions include Internet Explorer 5.01 Service Pack 4 on Microsoft Windows 2000 Service 4; Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 on Microsoft Windows 2000 Service Pack 4; and Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, and Internet Explorer 8 on supported editions of Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows XP Service Pack 3, and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2. Protected Mode prevents exploitation of this vulnerability and is running by default for versions of Internet Explorer on Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008.

The vulnerability exists due to content being forced to render incorrectly from local files in such a way that information can be exposed to malicious websites.

Microsoft has released MS10-035 to address the known vector for the main issue in Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 8, which are the newer versions of Internet Explorer. However, all versions of Internet Explorer remain subject to an issue that, if an attacker is able to cache content in a predictable location on a user's system, and is able to determine the user name, then the attacker may be able to view files on the local system to which the user has access.

At this time, we are unaware of any attacks attempting to use this vulnerability. We will continue to monitor the threat environment and update this advisory if this situation changes. On completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to protect our customers, which may include providing a solution through our monthly security update release process, or an out-of-cycle security update, depending on customer needs.

We are actively working with partners in our Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) and our Microsoft Security Response Alliance (MSRA) programs to provide information that they can use to provide broader protections to customers. In addition, we are actively working with partners to monitor the threat landscape and take action against malicious sites that attempt to exploit this vulnerability.

Microsoft continues to encourage customers to follow the "Protect Your Computer" guidance of enabling a firewall, applying all software updates and installing anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Additional information can be found at Security at home.

Mitigating Factors:

  • Protected Mode prevents exploitation of this vulnerability and is running by default for supported versions of Internet Explorer on Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2.
  • In a Web-based attack scenario, an attacker could host a Web site that contains a Web page that is used to exploit this vulnerability. In addition, compromised Web sites and Web sites that accept or host user-provided content or advertisements could contain specially crafted content that could exploit this vulnerability. In all cases, however, an attacker would have no way to force users to visit these Web sites. Instead, an attacker would have to convince users to visit the Web site, typically by getting them to click a link in an e-mail message or Instant Messenger message that takes users to the attacker’s Web site.
  • An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the local user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less affected than users who operate with administrative user rights.
  • By default, Internet Explorer on Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 runs in a restricted mode that is known as Enhanced Security Configuration. This mode sets the security level for the Internet zone to High. This is a mitigating factor for Web sites that you have not added to the Internet Explorer Trusted sites zone.
  • By default, all supported versions of Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express, and Windows Mail open HTML e-mail messages in the Restricted sites zone. The Restricted sites zone helps mitigate attacks that could try to exploit this vulnerability by preventing Active Scripting and ActiveX controls from being used when reading HTML e-mail messages. However, if a user clicks a link in an e-mail message, the user could still be vulnerable to exploitation of this vulnerability through the Web-based attack scenario.

General Information

Purpose of Advisory: To provide customers with initial notification of the publicly disclosed vulnerability. For more information see the Mitigating Factors, Workarounds, and Suggested Actions sections of this security advisory.

Advisory Status: The issue is currently under investigation.

Recommendation: Review the suggested actions and configure as appropriate.

ReferencesIdentification
CVE Reference CVE-2010-0255
Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 980088

This advisory discusses the following software.

Affected Software
Windows 2000 Service Pack 4
Windows XP Service Pack 2
Windows XP Service Pack 3
Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Service Pack 2
Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2
Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition Service Pack 2
Windows Server 2003 with SP2 for Itanium-based Systems
Windows Vista
Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Service Pack 2
Windows Vista x64 Edition
Windows Vista x64 Edition Service Pack 1 and Service Pack 2
Windows Server 2008 for 32-bit Systems and Windows Server 2008 for 32-bit Systems Service Pack 2
Windows Server 2008 for x64-based Systems and Windows Server 2008 for x64-based Systems Service pack 2
Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based Systems and Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based Systems Service Pack 2
Windows 7 for 32-bit Systems
Windows 7 for x64-based Systems
Windows Server 2008 R2 for x64-based Systems
Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium-based Systems
Internet Explorer 5.01 Service Pack 4 for Microsoft Windows 2000 Service Pack 4
Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 on Microsoft Windows 2000 Service Pack 4
Internet Explorer 6 for Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows XP Service Pack 3, and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 6 for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003 with SP2 for Itanium-based Systems, and Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 7 for Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows XP Service Pack 3, and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 7 for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2, Windows Server 2003 with SP2 for Itanium-based Systems, and Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Vista, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, and Windows Vista Service Pack 2, and Windows Vista x64 Edition, Windows Vista x64 Edition Service Pack 1, and Windows Vista x64 Edition Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Server 2008 for 32-bit Systems and Windows Server 2008 for 32-bit Systems Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based Systems and Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based Systems Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Server 2008 for x64-based Systems and Windows Server 2008 for x64-based Systems Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 8 for Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows XP Service Pack 3, and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 8 for Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 8 in Windows Vista, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, and Windows Vista Service Pack 2, and Windows Vista x64 Edition, Windows Vista x64 Edition Service Pack 1 and Windows Vista x64 Edition Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 8 in Windows Server 2008 for 32-bit Systems and Windows Server 2008 for 32-bit Systems Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 8 in Windows Server 2008 for x64-based Systems and Windows Server 2008 for x64-based Systems Service Pack 2
Internet Explorer 8 in Windows 7 for 32-bit Systems
Internet Explorer 8 in Windows 7 for x64-based Systems
Internet Explorer 8 in Windows Server 2008 R2 for x64-based Systems
Internet Explorer 8 in Windows Server 2008 R2 for Itanium-based Systems

What is the scope of the advisory?
Microsoft is aware of a new vulnerability that affects Internet Explorer. The vulnerability in Internet Explorer affects the software that is listed in the Overview section.

Is this a security vulnerability that requires Microsoft to issue a security update?
Upon completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to help protect our customers. This may include providing a security update through our monthly release process, or providing an out-of-cycle security update, depending on our customer needs.

How could an attacker exploit this vulnerability?
An attacker could host a specially crafted Web site that is designed to exploit this vulnerability through Internet Explorer and then convince a user to view the Web site. The attacker could also take advantage of compromised Web sites and Web sites that accept or host user-provided content or advertisements. These Web sites could contain specially crafted content that could exploit this vulnerability. In all cases, however, an attacker would have no way to force users to visit these Web sites. Instead, an attacker would have to convince users to visit the Web site, typically by getting them to click a link in an e-mail message or in an Instant Messenger message that takes users to the attacker's Web site. It could also be possible to display specially crafted Web content by using banner advertisements or by using other methods to deliver Web content to affected systems.

How does Protected Mode in Internet Explorer on Windows Vista and later protect me from this vulnerability?
Internet Explorer in Windows Vista and later run in Protected Mode by default in the Internet security zone. (Protected Mode is off by default in the Intranet zone.) Protected Mode significantly reduces the ability of an attacker to write, alter, or destroy data on the user’s machine or to install malicious code. This is accomplished by using the integrity mechanisms of Windows Vista which restrict access to processes, files, and registry keys with higher integrity levels.

I am using Windows XP or have turned off Protected Mode. Are there any mitigations I can implement to protect against this issue?
Yes. We have identified an additional mitigation leveraging Internet Explorer Network Protocol Lockdown. Internet Explorer can be configured to lock down HTML content from particular network protocols. This feature allows an administrator to extend the same restrictions of the Local Machine Zone Lockdown to be applied to any content on any arbitrary protocol in any security zone.

What does the Internet Explorer Network Protocol Lockdown FixIt in the Workarounds section do?
The Internet Explorer Network Protocol Lockdown FixIt restricts the file:// protocol so that script and ActiveX controls are prevented from running using the file:// protocol in the Internet zone.

Is it true that an attacker exploiting this vulnerability can view a victim’s hard drive?
If the system is running in Protected Mode, the system would not be vulnerable to the attack. If not running in Protected Mode, the attacker would be unable to obtain files unless they knew the exact filename and path. Rather, in order to successfully locate files on a drive, the attacker would have to know the exact file name and location to retrieve it.  Also, the attacker would only have access to the same files the user does, so if the user were running in non-administrator mode, some files would be protected from the attacker.

How might an attacker use this?
An attacker with knowledge of the precise location of a file on a remote hard drive could redirect the contents of the locally stored file and force the local content to be rendered as an HTML document, making it visible remotely.

What about the concern that an attacker could view a user's files and other information?
If the attacker is able to determine the user name on the affected system, and is able to cache content in a predictable location on the user's system, then the attacker may be able to view the user’s files.

  • Protect Your PC

    We continue to encourage customers to follow our Protect Your PC guidance of enabling a firewall, getting software updates and installing antivirus software. Customers can learn more about these steps by visiting Protect Your PC Web site.

  • For more information about staying safe on the Internet, customers should visitMicrosoft Security Central.

Workarounds

Microsoft has tested the following workarounds. Although these workarounds will not correct the underlying vulnerability, they help block known attack vectors. When a workaround reduces functionality, it is identified in the following section.

Set Internet and Local intranet security zone settings to "High" to prompt before running ActiveX Controls and Active Scripting in these zones

You can help protect against exploitation of this vulnerability by changing your settings for the Internet security zone to prompt before running ActiveX controls and Active Scripting. You can do this by setting your browser security to High.

To raise the browsing security level in Internet Explorer, follow these steps:

  1. On the Internet Explorer Tools menu, click Internet Options.
  2. In the Internet Options dialog box, click the Security tab, and then click the Internet icon.
  3. Under Security level for this zone, move the slider to High. This sets the security level for all Web sites you visit to High.

Note If no slider is visible, click Default Level, and then move the slider to High.

Note Setting the level to High may cause some Web sites to work incorrectly. If you have difficulty using a Web site after you change this setting, and you are sure the site is safe to use, you can add that site to your list of trusted sites. This will allow the site to work correctly even with the security setting set to High.

Impact of workaround. There are side effects to prompting before running ActiveX Controls and Active Scripting. Many Web sites that are on the Internet or on an intranet use ActiveX or Active Scripting to provide additional functionality. For example, an online e-commerce site or banking site may use ActiveX Controls to provide menus, ordering forms, or even account statements. Prompting before running ActiveX Controls or Active Scripting is a global setting that affects all Internet and intranet sites. You will be prompted frequently when you enable this workaround. For each prompt, if you feel you trust the site that you are visiting, click Yes to run ActiveX Controls or Active Scripting. If you do not want to be prompted for all these sites, use the steps outlined in "Add sites that you trust to the Internet Explorer Trusted sites zone".

Add sites that you trust to the Internet Explorer Trusted sites zone

After you set Internet Explorer to require a prompt before it runs ActiveX controls and Active Scripting in the Internet zone and in the Local intranet zone, you can add sites that you trust to the Internet Explorer Trusted sites zone. This will allow you to continue to use trusted Web sites exactly as you do today, while helping to protect you from this attack on untrusted sites. We recommend that you add only sites that you trust to the Trusted sites zone.

To do this, follow these steps:

  1. In Internet Explorer, click Tools, click Internet Options, and then click the Security tab.
  2. In the Select a Web content zone to specify its current security settings box, click Trusted Sites, and then click Sites.
  3. If you want to add sites that do not require an encrypted channel, click to clear the Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone check box.
  4. In the Add this Web site to the zone box, type the URL of a site that you trust, and then click Add.
  5. Repeat these steps for each site that you want to add to the zone.
  6. Click OK two times to accept the changes and return to Internet Explorer.

Note Add any sites that you trust not to take malicious action on your system. Two in particular that you may want to add are *.windowsupdate.microsoft.com and *.update.microsoft.com. These are the sites that will host the update, and it requires an ActiveX Control to install the update.

Configure Internet Explorer to prompt before running Active Scripting or to disable Active Scripting in the Internet and Local intranet security zone

You can help protect against exploitation of this vulnerability by changing your settings to prompt before running Active Scripting or to disable Active Scripting in the Internet and Local intranet security zone. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. In Internet Explorer, click Internet Options on the Tools menu.
  2. Click the Security tab.
  3. Click Internet, and then click Custom Level.
  4. Under Settings, in the Scripting section, under Active Scripting, click Prompt or Disable, and then click OK.
  5. Click Local intranet, and then click Custom Level.
  6. Under Settings, in the Scripting section, under Active Scripting, click Prompt or Disable, and then click OK.
  7. Click OK two times to return to Internet Explorer.

Note Disabling Active Scripting in the Internet and Local intranet security zones may cause some Web sites to work incorrectly. If you have difficulty using a Web site after you change this setting, and you are sure the site is safe to use, you can add that site to your list of trusted sites. This will allow the site to work correctly.

Impact of workaround. There are side effects to prompting before running Active Scripting. Many Web sites that are on the Internet or on an intranet use Active Scripting to provide additional functionality. For example, an online e-commerce site or banking site may use Active Scripting to provide menus, ordering forms, or even account statements. Prompting before running Active Scripting is a global setting that affects all Internet and intranet sites. You will be prompted frequently when you enable this workaround. For each prompt, if you feel you trust the site that you are visiting, click Yes to run Active Scripting. If you do not want to be prompted for all these sites, use the steps outlined in "Add sites that you trust to the Internet Explorer Trusted sites zone".

Add sites that you trust to the Internet Explorer Trusted sites zone

After you set Internet Explorer to require a prompt before it runs ActiveX controls and Active Scripting in the Internet zone and in the Local intranet zone, you can add sites that you trust to the Internet Explorer Trusted sites zone. This will allow you to continue to use trusted Web sites exactly as you do today, while helping to protect you from this attack on untrusted sites. We recommend that you add only sites that you trust to the Trusted sites zone.

To do this, follow these steps:

  1. In Internet Explorer, click Tools, click Internet Options, and then click the Security tab.
  2. In the Select a Web content zone to specify its current security settings box, click Trusted Sites, and then click Sites.
  3. If you want to add sites that do not require an encrypted channel, click to clear the Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone check box.
  4. In the Add this Web site to the zone box, type the URL of a site that you trust, and then click Add.
  5. Repeat these steps for each site that you want to add to the zone.
  6. Click OK two times to accept the changes and return to Internet Explorer.

Note Add any sites that you trust not to take malicious action on your system. Two in particular that you may want to add are *.windowsupdate.microsoft.com and *.update.microsoft.com. These are the sites that will host the update, and it requires an ActiveX Control to install the update.

Enable Internet Explorer Network Protocol Lockdown for Windows XP or systems with Protected Mode disabled

Warning If you use Registry Editor incorrectly, you may cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system. Microsoft cannot guarantee that you can solve problems that result from using Registry Editor incorrectly. Use Registry Editor at your own risk.

To lockdown the “file” protocol, paste the following text in a text editor such as Notepad. Then, save the file by using the .reg file name extension.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MAIN\FeatureControl\FEATURE_PROTOCOL_LOCKDOWN]
"explorer.exe"=dword:00000001
"iexplore.exe"=dword:00000001
"*"=dword:00000001

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\RestrictedProtocols]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\RestrictedProtocols\1]
"file"="file"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\RestrictedProtocols\3]
"file"="file"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\RestrictedProtocols\4]
"file"="file"

You can apply this .reg file to individual systems by double-clicking it. You can also apply it across domains by using Group Policy. For more information about Group Policy, visit the following Microsoft Web sites:

You can apply this .reg file to individual systems by double-clicking it. You can also apply it across domains by using Group Policy.

How to undo the workaround. To reverse this workaround, paste the following text in a text editor such as Notepad. Then, save the file by using the .reg file name extension.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\MAIN\FeatureControl\FEATURE_PROTOCOL_LOCKDOWN]
"explorer.exe"=dword:00000000
"iexplore.exe"=dword:00000000

[-HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\RestrictedProtocols]

Enable Internet Explorer Network Protocol Lockdown using automated Microsoft Fix It

See Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 980088 to use the automated Microsoft Fix it solution to enable or disable this workaround.

Impact of workaround. HTML content from UNC paths in the Internet / Local Intranet / Restricted zones will no longer automatically run script or ActiveX controls.

Other Information

Resources:

Disclaimer:

The information provided in this advisory is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Microsoft disclaims all warranties, either express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In no event shall Microsoft Corporation or its suppliers be liable for any damages whatsoever including direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, loss of business profits or special damages, even if Microsoft Corporation or its suppliers have been advised of the possibility of such damages. Some states do not allow the exclusion or limitation of liability for consequential or incidental damages so the foregoing limitation may not apply.

Revisions:

  • V1.0 (February 3, 2010): Advisory published.
  • V1.1 (February 10, 2010): Specified the mitigation offered by Protected Mode. Also clarified an FAQ and workaround pertaining to Protected Mode.
  • V1.2 (June 9, 2010): Added information about MS10-035 and clarified a FAQ entry about the caching vector.

Built at 2014-04-18T13:49:36Z-07:00

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