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Security UPDATE--Really Simple Syndication Security--July 6, 2005

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Protecting Your Company by Managing Your Users' Internet Access

Testing Your Security Configuration


1. In Focus: Really Simple Syndication Security

2. Security News and Features
- Recent Security Vulnerabilities
- Microsoft Released Update Rollup 1 for Windows 2000 SP4
- Bluetooth Security Essentials
- Preventing Data Loss When Using EFS

3. Security Toolkit
- Security Matters Blog

4. New and Improved
- Prevention Is Better than the Cure


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==== 1. In Focus: Really Simple Syndication Security ====
by Mark Joseph Edwards, News Editor, mark at ntsecurity / net

As you probably know by now, Really Simple Syndication (RSS) technology is hotter than a firecracker. The technology is slated to explode into the world of even more users with the eventual release of the next version of Windows (code-named Longhorn).

A slight wave of concern about security has started to grow with Microsoft's announcement that it will build RSS technology into Longhorn. Because Windows is so widely used and RSS will be built in, people have pointed out that RSS could become intruders' avenue of choice for exploiting systems.

RSS can be used to deliver all kinds of content, and by far the most popular content is HTML-based text. However, RSS can be used to deliver more than just text. You might be aware that there are ways to include file attachments in an RSS feed. As a result, we now have exceptionally great technologies such as podcasting, which is a way of delivering audio files as RSS-item attachments. Likewise, RSS can be used to deliver video, software updates, documents, spreadsheets, and all sorts of other files. The possibilities are nearly unlimited. And therein resides the concern.

RSS is a delivery vehicle for content. Some type of helper application is required to read, view, listen to, or otherwise handle that content. For example, if you have RSS deliver an MP3 audio file, then at some point, you'll launch your MP3 player to listen to that file. The same goes for HTML, video, documents, and so on. If any of the applications used to handle RSS-related data have security vulnerabilities, of course intruders will eventually find a way to deliver an exploit.

Because RSS is so widely used and RSS feeds are typically updated in a somewhat automated fashion, the potential is high that someone could exploit a large number of systems very quickly. For example, a problem in your Web browser or media player software could be exploited by delivering specially crafted content.

Combined attacks could be used too. For example, you might subscribe to an RSS feed at a major news site. An intruder might find a way to tweak your HOSTS file and DNS cache so that, unknown to you, your RSS aggregator or RSS reader goes to some other site instead. The RSS aggregator or RSS reader would then pull content from that illegitimate site and possibly launch an exploit on your system. All the while, you're none the wiser, thinking you've simply pulled the latest news articles, which of course would be designed to look exactly like the real thing.

The bottom line is that RSS isn't much of a security risk and poses few, if any, problems in and of itself. The real risks, so far as I can see, are that RSS feeds often interface with other problematic software, such as browsers, assorted media-playing software, and word processing software. To protect users, those applications need to be developed to be as secure as possible. If that isn't accomplished, computer users will be less likely to use the great RSS technology we now enjoy.


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==== 2. Security News and Features ====

Recent Security Vulnerabilities
If you subscribe to this newsletter, you also receive Security Alerts, which inform you about recently discovered security vulnerabilities. You can also find information about these discoveries at

Microsoft Released Update Rollup 1 for Windows 2000 SP4
Microsoft released Update Rollup 1 for Windows 2000 SP4, which contains all updates and patches issued as of April 30, 2005. A spokesperson for Microsoft said that there will be no Service Pack 5 for Windows 2000 and that Update Rollup 1 won't be a requirement in order to receive support during Windows 2000's extended support phase. The company believes that "the Update Rollup will meet customer needs more appropriately than a new service pack."

Bluetooth Security Essentials
Microsoft introduced comprehensive Bluetooth support for desktops and laptops in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), and for smart phones and Pocket PCs in Windows CE. As with its better-known cousin Wi-Fi, security questions have arisen about Bluetooth. John Howie takes a look at the fundamentals of Bluetooth, including its security features and potential risks and walks you through the process of securing your Bluetooth implementation.

Preventing Data Loss When Using EFS
Many people use the Encrypting File System (EFS) to protect their confidential files but later lose that information when they upgrade their computer or lose the computer and try to restore from backups. Randy Franklin Smith explains how to avoid losing data when using EFS.


==== Resources and Events ====

Recover Your Active Directory
Get answers to all your Active Directory recovery questions here! Join industry guru Darren Mar-Elia in this free Web seminar and discover how to use native recovery tools and methods, how to implement a lag site to delay replication, limitations to native recovery approaches, and more. Learn how you can develop an effective AD backup strategy. Register today!

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In this free Web seminar, you'll get the tools you need to ensure your systems aren't going down. You'll discover the various categories of high-availability and disaster-recovery solutions available and the pros and cons of each. You'll learn what solutions help you take preemptive, corrective action without resorting to a full system failover, or in extreme cases, that perform a nondisruptive, automatic switchover to a secondary server. Register Now!

SQL Server 2005 Features for Developers
SQL Server 2005 offers great features for every role: DBAs, Business Intelligence (BI) analysts, and developers. In this free Web seminar, you'll discover the numerous features and productivity enhancements over SQL Server 2000, including Common Table Expressions (CTEs), DDL triggers, XML data type, using T-SQL commands, and more.

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==== Featured White Paper ====

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==== 3. Security Toolkit ====

Security Matters Blog: Any Problems with Win2K Update Rollup 1?
by Mark Joseph Edwards,

I've heard a couple of reports of problems regarding the new Update Rollup 1 package for Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 (SP4). Have you experienced any problems?

by John Savill,

Q: How can I use a script to determine password-expiration dates for users in a domain or an organizational unit (OU) and send an email message to accounts whose passwords expire soon?

Find the answer at


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==== 4. New and Improved ====
by Dustin Ewing, [email protected]

Prevention Is Better than the Cure
Symantec has released Symantec Critical System Protection 4.5, an intrusion-prevention solution for desktops and servers running Windows, UNIX and Linux OSs. Symantec Critical System Protection enforces behavior-based security policies that defend and proactively protect applications on client and server platforms. The software is designed to protect against day-zero attacks and maintain system compliance. Buffer overflow and memory-based attack protection provide an added defense against sophisticated attacks. The product includes a high-performance firewall that monitors inbound and outbound network traffic connections and can block by port, protocol, and IP address range. For pricing and more information, see the company's Web site.

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Editor's note: Share Your Security Discoveries and Get $100
Share your security-related discoveries, comments, or problems and solutions in the Windows IT Security print newsletter's Reader to Reader column. Email your contributions (500 words or less) to [email protected]. If we print your submission, you'll get $100. We edit submissions for style, grammar, and length.


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