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Infrared W2K Vulnerability Patched

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday moved to patch a vulnerability involving infrared devices used with Windows 2000 that opens the door for denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.

The vulnerability is expected to be limited in scope because Windows 2000’s support for infrared devices (IrDA) is usually only implemented in laptop computers, personal digital assistants and in other computing appliances.

In a bulletin that it dispatched to the subscribers of its Security mailing list, Microsoft acknowledged that a malicious attacker could exploit a known IrDA buffer overflow vulnerability by sending malformed IrDA packets to an un-patched Windows 2000 system. When processed by Windows 2000, malformed packets of this kind can trigger an access violation that causes Windows 2000 to re-start automatically, Microsoft acknowledged.

Because of the conventions of Windows 2000’s IrDA support, the software giant stresses that exploiting a vulnerability of this kind could be a difficult enterprise for even the most accomplished of attackers. First of all, a potential attacker would have to use another device that supports IrDA to launch her attack. Secondly, she would have to position her own IrDA device at no more than arm’s length from – and at approximately the same level as – a Windows 2000 system’s IrDA port.

Nevertheless, Microsoft encouraged all customers with IrDA devices installed on their Windows 2000 systems to apply a patch that it made available to fix the problem.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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