Kernel vulnerability found in Vista

A flaw in Vista's networking has been found that can crash the system, but no fix is expected until the next service pack

A flaw has been found in Windows Vista that could allow rootkits to be hidden or denial-of-service attacks to be executed on computers using the operating system.

The vulnerability was found by Thomas Unterleitner of Austrian security company Phion and was announced Friday. Unterleitner told ZDNet UK on Friday that Phion told Microsoft about the flaw in October but that he understood a fix would only be issued in the next Vista service pack.

According to Unterleitner's disclosure of the flaw, the issue lies in the network input/output subsystem of Vista. Certain requests sent to the iphlpapi.dll API can cause a buffer overflow that corrupts the Vista kernel memory, resulting in a blue-screen-of-death crash.

"This buffer overflow could (also) be exploited to inject code, hence compromising client security," Unterleitner said.

Unterleitner told ZDNet UK via e-mail that the "exploit can be used to turn off the computer using a (denial-of-service) attack." He also suggested that, because the exploit occurs in the Netio.sys component of Vista, it may make it possible to hide rootkits.

Using a sample program, Unterleitner and his colleagues ascertained that Vista Enterprise and Vista Ultimate were definitely affected by the flaw, with other versions of Microsoft's operating system "very likely" to be affected as well. Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions are vulnerable. Windows XP is not affected.

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