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Windows shortcut threat spreads via USB drives

A Microsoft advisory warns of a new threat aimed at its Windows Shell, particularly at the way Windows handles shortcuts  
By Keith Ferrell, InformationWeek USA, July 20, 2010 
The exploit uses AutoRun to launch malware. All versions of Windows are believed to be vulnerable.

Warnings of the new USB attack vector began to appear recently, including a Microsoft Advisory which included the observation that one attack approach could come via removable drives.

Vulnerable versions of Windows, including Service Packs, identified by Microsoft are:

  • 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 Service Pack 1 and Windows Vista Service Pack 2
  • Windows Vista x64 Edition Service Pack 1 and Windows Vista x64 Edition 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

Look for Microsoft to address this one aggressively and quickly — the breadth of the exposure guarantees that.

And look at the announcement of this new vulnerability, and particularly the USB/AutoRun/AutoPlay as an opportunity to tighten up on your company’s approach to both removable drives, and automatic executions.

AutoRun-based attacks launched from USB drives — or CD-Roms — are nothing new; we’ve talked here of USB risks before.

Disabling AutoRun, and any automatic players seems to me to be a good first step. But equally important is establishing and communicating a solid removable drive policy — and, by extension, a solid overall device and media policy — that could at least make employees aware of the large risks that can come in small attachable packages.

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