Attacks appear imminent as IE exploit is improved

The attack, first released on Friday, is made more reliable

Hackers working on the open-source Metasploit project have spiffed up a zero-day attack on Microsoft's Internet Explorer, making it more reliable -- and more likely to be used by criminals.

Security experts have been worried about the flaw since it was first disclosed on the Bugtraq mailing list Friday. But the original demonstration code was unreliable and has not been used in real-world attacks.

"The Metasploit exploit that was released last night will be more reliable against certain attacks than the initial exploit," said Ben Greenbaum, senior research manager with Symantec, in an interview Wednesday.

As of Wednesday morning, Symantec had not seen the exploit used in Internet-based attacks, but security experts say this type of code is for a very popular hacking technique called a drive-by attack. Victims are tricked into visiting Web sites that contain malicious code where they are then infected via the browser vulnerability. Criminals also place this type of code on hacked Web sites in order to spread their attacks.

On Monday, Microsoft published a Security Advisory on the flaw, offering some workarounds for the issue. It affects IE version 6 and version 7.

Microsoft's latest IE 8 browser is not affected by the bug, which has to do with the way that IE retrieves certain Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) objects, used to create a standardized layout on Web pages.

Concerned IE users can upgrade their browser or disable JavaScript in order to avoid an attack.

To improve the exploit, the Metasploit team used a technique borrowed from two well-known security researchers, Greenbaum said. "The initial exploit used heap-spraying technology," he said.

"It's kind of like a shotgun attack, where you try a lot of things at once and hope one of them catches."

The latest attack uses a .net dlll memory technique developed by Alexander Sotirov and Marc Dowd.

"This will be much more reliable than the heap-spraying technology," he added. "There's really no question about it."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags exploits and vulnerabilitiesMicrosoftInternet Explorer

More about MicrosoftSymantec

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Robert McMillan

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts