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Critical OS Flaw Uncovered

Microsoft released a patch late Wednesday for a critical flaw in Windows NT and Windows 2000 that could allow users to elevate their privileges on compromised systems.

The flaw involves the Windows debugging facility, a tool for programs to perform diagnostic and analytic functions on applications while they run on the operating system.

"There is a flaw in the authentication mechanism for the debugging facility such that an unauthorized program can gain access to the debugger. A vulnerability exists because an attacker can use this to cause a running program to run a program of her choice," Microsoft's security bulletin says.

Potential damage could include worst case scenarios such as deleting data, adding accounts with administrative access or reconfiguring the system, Microsoft notes.

Microsoft accurately states that the threat would most commonly impact workstations and terminal servers, assuming best practices have been followed. The security bulletin points out that administrators as a rule should never configure business-critical systems such as ERP servers, database servers or domain controllers to permit interactive logon by unprivileged users.

The patch, which eliminates the vulnerability by fixing the validation process for requests to attach to the debugging system, can be found at www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS02-024.asp.

About the Author

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

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