by Elizabeth Montalbano, IDG News Service
Security experts have found a vulnerability in the Windows operating
system that could allow malware to lurk undetected in long string
names of the Windows Registry.
According to a security advisory by Denmark-based IT security company
Secunia, the weakness is caused by an error in the Windows Registry
Editor Utility's handling of long string names. A malicious program
could hide itself in a registry key by creating a string with a long
name, which would allow the malicious string and any created after it
in the same key to remain hidden, according to Secunia. Keys are
stored in the Windows Registry, which saves a PC's configuration
Secunia has confirmed that the vulnerability affects the "Run"
registry key, according to the advisory. Malicious strings in this key
will be executed when a user logs in to the PC.
The vulnerability affects Windows XP and Windows 2000 and has been
confirmed to exist on fully updated XP systems with Service Pack 2 and
Windows 2000 systems with Service Pack 4, according to Secunia.
Microsoft issued a statement on the vulnerability saying it is
investigating the weakness and is not aware of any malicious attacks
that have exploited it.
Moreover, the company asserted that the vulnerability by itself could
not allow an attacker to remotely or locally attack a user's
computer. It could only be exploited if the computer had its security
compromised in some other way or was already running malicious
In its advisory, Secunia provided several solutions to avoid
exploitation of the vulnerability, one of which is to ensure that
systems have up-to-date anti-virus and spyware detection software
The security company also said it is possible to see the hidden
registry strings with the "reg" command-line utility of the Windows
Registry, and that the "regedt32.exe" utility on Windows 2000 is not
affected by the weakness.
Copyright 2005 PC World Communications, Inc.
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