Happy birthday, disk drive

Published: 2006-09-13
Last Updated: 2006-09-13 22:43:25 UTC
by Jim Clausing (Version: 1)
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Today is the 50th anniversary of the first computer system that had a disk drive.  See here for more info.
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PHP - shared hosters, take note.

Published: 2006-09-15
Last Updated: 2006-09-15 16:32:04 UTC
by Swa Frantzen (Version: 4)
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PHP is a popular server side scripting language.

PHP's (security) settings are typically controlled from a php.ini file. This allows the system administrator to control settings such as such as safe_mode and open_basedir.

People managing shared hosting machines often control the settings on a more granular level in the apache configuration (httpd.conf) as they can set it there per directory and allow for the different hosted sites to have different settings.

This latter method of limiting scripts can be overcome from inside the scripts themselves. Details are trivially available.

So that leaves:
  • Control PHP settings from the php.ini file if possible;
  • If you are a shared hosting provider: check the CVS repository, reportedly the needed fixes have been checked in (unconfirmed);
  • Cross your fingers and wait for the next release of PHP (the current releases are reportedly affected).


Stefan Esser from the hardened php project wrote in with a quick workaround: add "ini_restore" to the list of disabled functions in php.ini:                                                                              
This is much easier than trying to find the fix in the source code till the next release of PHP.

While at it: those hardening scripts available at the hardened-php site should really be applied in a hosting situation. They protect against this vulnerability already. And perhaps a close look for the beta "suhosin" would not be a bad idea either.

If you are interested in securing PHP, you might also be interested in the PHP 6 comments and the Tip of the Day on php from Johannes.


Steve wrote in to suggest that -in addition to disabling ini_restore- you might want to look at disabling ini_set as well.

Swa Frantzen -- Section 66 
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Microsoft security patches for September 2006

Published: 2006-09-14
Last Updated: 2006-09-14 17:37:15 UTC
by Swa Frantzen (Version: 5)
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Overview of the September 2006 Microsoft patches.

# Affected Known Problems
Known Exploits Microsoft rating ISC rating (*)
clients servers
re-released MS06-040 Server Service

Re-released to fix known problems

Multiple botnets actively exploiting this. Critical
re-released MS06-042 Internet Explorer (MSIE)


Re-released to fix  the known problems with MSIE6SP1

Well known vulnerabilities
MS06-052 Microsoft Queue System (MSQS) -
Pragmatic General Multicast (PGM)

No reported problems

No known exploits yet
Critical Critical
MS06-053 Indexing Service

No reported problems

No known exploits yet Moderate
Less urgent
MS06-054 Publisher

No reported problems

No known exploits yet Critical
Critical Less urgent

We will update issues on this page as they evolve.
We appreciate updates
US based customers can call Microsoft for free patch related support on 1-866-PCSAFETY

(*): ISC rating
  • We use 4 levels:
    • PATCH NOW: Typically used where we see immediate danger of exploitation. Typical environments will want to deploy these patches ASAP. Workarounds are typically not accepted by users or are not possible. This rating is often used when typical deployments make it vulnerable and exploits are being used or easy to obtain or make.
    • Critical: Anything that needs little to become "interesting" for the dark side. Best approach is to test and deploy ASAP. Workarounds can give more time to test.
    • Important: Things where more testing and other measures can help.
    • Less urgent: Typically we expect the impact if left unpatched to be not that big a deal in the short term. Do not forget them however.
  • The difference between the client and server rating is based on how you use the affected machine. We take into account the typical client and server deployment in the usage of the machine and the common measures people typically have in place already. Measures we presume are simple best practices for servers such as not using outlook, MSIE, word etc. to do traditional office or leaisure work.
  • The rating is not a risk analysis as such. It is a rating of importance of the vulnerability and the perceived or even predicted threat for affected systems. The rating does not account for the number of affected systems there are. It is for an affected system in a typical worst-case role.
  • Only the organization itself is in a position to do a full risk analysis involving the presence (or lack of) affected systems, the actually implemented measures, the impact on their operation and the value of the assets involved.
  • All patches released by a vendor are important enough to have a close look if you use the affected systems.  There is little incentive for vendors to publicize patches that do not have some form of risk to them.
(**):  Please note that in accordance with the above this rating assumes your machine used in a typical server role is affected. This has nothing to do with Microsoft's marketing names or product lines. Server applies to the use of the machine. The rating assumes the machine is affected. So yes we consider it a critical problem if you use a MSQS enhanced XP as a server. Please resolv any licensing issues directly with Microsoft, we do not condone violating copyright or licencing agreements.
The key is that the separation between server and client is how you use the machine, we rated the MSIE issues in MS06-042 lower due to most administrators being smart enough never to surf the web on a server. Still, if you installed a windows server license on your laptop and surf the web with it, it is at high risk even if it is a "server" licensed version of the OS.

Swa Frantzen -- Section 66
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Qwest having problems? (ALL FIXED)

Published: 2006-09-13
Last Updated: 2006-09-13 12:52:57 UTC
by Joel Esler (Version: 2)
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We've started noticing some problems with Qwest's network.  We've had no reports as to the cause, and we are sure that Qwest is working on it.

The Internet Health Report confirms the outage.  Click here.

More to come as we know more. 


Reader Eric writes in to tell us:

"According to the Qwest NOC this outage was due to a fiber cut in Oklahoma that created an internal routing loop. I just called into the NOC and this is the info they gave me. We saw an outage for approximately 25 minutes and the Qwest NOC confirmed this."

Glad to see they got it all fixed.
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Adobe Flash player upgrade time

Published: 2006-09-13
Last Updated: 2006-09-13 12:52:21 UTC
by Swa Frantzen (Version: 4)
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Adobe released its APSB06-11 advisory on some patched versions of it's flash player today. These upgrades address multiple vulnerabilites in relation to input validation. They lead to arbitrary code execution.

Upgrading to the latest greatest version: is highly recommended.

Apple Mac OS X users as well as Windows users are urged to upgrade. It's important as content vectors are something the dark sides likes to embrace.


A reader pointed us to the knowledge base article for more information on how to deploy it using e.g. a msi.

Another reader pointed us to Linux (and actually Solaris as well) users also need to upgrade their flash players. [They need to stay with the version 7 player, but have an upgrade waiting nevertheless].

Swa Frantzen -- Section 66
Keywords: adobe flash upgrade
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Microsoft Security Bulletin MS06-054

Published: 2006-09-13
Last Updated: 2006-09-13 01:36:20 UTC
by Michael Haisley (Version: 2)
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A remote code execution vulnerability exists in Publisher. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability when Publisher parses a file with a malformed string.

If a user were logged on with administrative user rights, an attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less affected than users who operate with administrative user rights.

Mitigating Factors:
An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the local user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.

In a Web-based attack scenario, an attacker would have to host a Web site that contains a Publisher file that is used to attempt to exploit this vulnerability. In addition, compromised Web sites and Web sites that accept or host user-provided content could contain specially crafted content that could exploit this vulnerability An attacker would have no way to force users to visit a malicious Web site. Instead, an attacker would have to persuade them to visit the Web site, typically by getting them to click a link that takes them to the attacker's site.

The vulnerability cannot be exploited automatically through e-mail. For an attack to be successful a user must open an attachment that is sent in an e-mail message.

Users who have installed and are using the Office Document Open Confirmation Tool for Office 2000 will be prompted with Open, Save, or Cancel before opening a document.

By default, Publisher is only installed on the Professional Suites of Office.

Recommendation: If you use publisher, patch now, consider limiting user rights for day-to-day use, even for those that need administrative access.
Keywords: microsoft
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