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Universal Plug and Play Vulnerabilities Discovered

Microsoft alerted users Thursday to a critical vulnerability in the Universal Plug and Play service that could lead to system compromise in several of the software company's client operating systems.

Windows XP and Windows Me are vulnerable because they natively support the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) service, which allows computers to discover and use network-based devices. Windows Me, however, has the service turned off by default. Windows 98 and Windows 98SE are affected because the service can be installed on those operating systems from the Internet Connection Sharing client that ships with Windows XP.

Windows NT Workstation and Windows 2000 Professional are not affected, according to the bulletin, because they do not support UPnP.

Two unrelated vulnerabilities affecting UPnP are addressed by the new patch. The first is a buffer overrun in components that handle messages advertising the availability of UPnP-capable devices on the network.

The second vulnerability arises from UPnP's failure to limit the steps the service will take to obtain information on a newly discovered device, making the system vulnerable to two denial-of-service scenarios.

Microsoft notes that standard firewalling practices, such as blocking ports 1900 and 5000, would protect corporate networks from Internet-based attacks. The company also says the Internet Connection Firewall running by default in Windows XP makes it more difficult for attackers to use the method.

It is the 59th security bulletin Microsoft issued in 2001. Microsoft credited eEye Digital Security for reporting the problem.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.