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[ISN] Music file flaws could threaten traders
By Robert Lemos
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
December 18, 2002, 5:12 PM PT
A security firm on Wednesday warned that people using Windows XP or
popular music player WinAmp could fall prey to a vulnerability,
enabling a modified music file to take control of a person's PC.
Flaws in both pieces of software could introduce malicious MP3 or
Windows Media files--which sound identical to unmodified music--into
the file-swapping systems, said George Kurtz, CEO of Foundstone.
"These particular vulnerabilities are definitely attack vectors for
any people or entity that is looking to go after those that are taking
part in file-swapping activities," he said.
The music industry and Hollywood are eyeing such hacking tactics as a
way to stop file swappers from trading copyrighted music in the
future. A bill sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Howard
Coble, R-N.C., and introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives
in July, would allow copyright owners limited rights to hack into
Such attacks could take advantage of flaws similar to the two found by
Mission Viejo, Calif.-based Foundstone.
The flaw in Windows XP can force the operating system to run code when
a music file is played by Windows Explorer, the operating system's
file-browsing application. Even placing the mouse pointer over a file
icon--opening a preview of the file--could trigger the file's payload,
if it has one. The vulnerability does not affect the Windows Media
Player, according to details posted by Microsoft in its advisory.
The vulnerability occurs because certain attributes of the files can
be loaded with bad data that affect the amount of memory that
Microsoft's Windows allocates for the information. Known as a buffer
overflow, such problems are a common software security problem.
People who use NullSoft's popular WinAmp software also have to watch
out, said Foundstone's Kurtz. WinAmp has a similar flaw that allows
code to run when certain multimedia tags in MP3 and WMA files are
loaded with too much data. Kurtz said that the company has notified
NullSoft and has a patch prepared. A representative for the software
maker couldn't be reached for comment.
This is the second time in recent months that Microsoft has had a
problem with a common multimedia format. In November, the company
warned that its operating system's mishandling of the PNG (portable
network graphics) image format could allow a malicious program to
compromise a person's computer. Microsoft later upgraded the severity
of that vulnerability to "critical."
Other multimedia formats are also becoming targets for Internet
attacks. Web software maker Macromedia warned last week that a flaw in
its Shockwave Flash Player, a popular browser plug-in for animating
Web graphics, could leave Internet users open to attack.
The patch for Windows XP is available through Microsoft's Windows
Update service. The newest version of NullSoft's WinAmp is available
on the company's WinAmp site.
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