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WinInfo Daily UPDATE, February 2, 2005

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In the News

- Microsoft Disputes Claim of Flaw in Windows XP SP2
- Microsoft Extends Olive Branch to the EU

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft Disputes Claim of Flaw in Windows XP SP2

Late last week, a Russian security company called Positive Technologies claimed that it had discovered two minor "mistakes" in Microsoft's implementation of a security feature in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) that could let malicious hackers sidestep the feature. The announcement was widely reported at the time as a major security flaw in XP SP2. However, Microsoft said this week that no vulnerability exists because the method that Positive Technologies described won't let an intruder run malicious code on a user's system.
"Customers are not at risk from the situation," a Microsoft statement reads. "There is no attack that utilizes this \[method\]." Furthermore, Microsoft says that the security feature in question, called Data Execution Protection (DEP), was designed only to prevent errant code from overwriting memory, preventing a common type of flaw called a buffer overrun. Even if a malicious hacker were able to somehow bypass DEP, the company says that the intruder wouldn't be able to compromise the system.
Positive Technologies first reported the flaw to Microsoft in late December 2004 but decided to go public with the information after the software company refused to categorize the flaw as a vulnerability. That doesn't mean that Microsoft won't fix the flaw, however. Microsoft representatives say that the company will modify DEP and other XP SP2 features over time, as needed, and will examine ways to seal off the bypass methods that Positive Technologies discovered.
After Microsoft denounced Positive Technologies' claims, Positive Technologies Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Yury Maksimov acknowledged that the DEP vulnerability wasn't enough to open up users to an attack but noted his frustration with Microsoft's inability to deal with the problem. "Such a vulnerability cannot cause a new worm or virus (to appear)," he wrote in an email to CNET. "But it is much better to know about the problem, than not."

Microsoft Extends Olive Branch to the EU

In Europe to meet with European Union (EU) officials about matters unrelated to his company's current antitrust crisis, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates noted that Microsoft is dedicated to cooperating with the EU. The comments come a week after the software giant angered EU antitrust regulators by naming its EU-mandated Windows version Windows XP Reduced Media Edition, setting off a firestorm of criticism about the company.
Gates says that he won't be meeting with EU antitrust regulators during his trip, which is apparently just fine with them. "Mr. Gates has not requested to meet \[EU antitrust head Neelie\] Kroes, and Mrs. Kroes is most certainly not going to request to see him," an EU spokesperson said. Separately, Gates noted that Microsoft will be "very responsive" to EU antitrust concerns.
While in Europe, Gates is meeting with various EU officials to discuss trade topics such as African poverty and China's economy. He made the visit as part of his annual trip to the World Economic Forum, held last week in Davos, Switzerland. Gates is apparently playing no role in Microsoft's ongoing negotiations over the new name for XP Reduced Media Edition. "\[Gates is here for\] informal meetings, not negotiating meetings," an EU spokesperson said.

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