[ISN] A trio of MS-Office security vulns

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Apr 10 2002 - 01:47:18 PDT

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    By Thomas C Greene in Washington
    Posted: 09/04/2002 at 17:54 GMT
    Researchers at GreyMagic Software have uncovered three novel
    vulnerabilities provided by Microsoft Office Web Components (OWC),
    which can override security settings in Internet Explorer.
    First up, it's possible, using the spreadsheet component of OWC, to
    enable active scripting when the user has it disabled in IE.
    "One of the features added to the spreadsheet component is the
    '=HOST()' formula, which returns a handle to the hosting environment.
    "It is possible to use this formula in order to manipulate the DOM
    [the Document Object Model, which allows scripts to access and alter
    documents], which is a security issue in itself when Active Scripting
    is disabled, but it's somewhat limited because there's no way to add
    logic (conditions, loops, etc.) to the calls made.
    "However, with a bit of manipulation it is possible to get Active
    Scripting to kick in. By using the setTimeout method of the window
    object through the '=HOST()' formula it is possible to execute script
    with any language available to the host," GreyMagic says.
    The workaround for now is to disable not just active scripting but
    ActiveX and plugins as well. There is a sample script and two
    demonstrations linked at the bottom of the GMS , one of which enables
    the curious to try out their own scripts quite conveniently.
    Next, the spreadsheet component also enables an attacker to control
    the clipboard even when the IE option "allow paste operations via
    script" has been disabled.
    "The 'Paste' method of the Range object and the 'Copy' method of the
    Cell object give an attacker full control over clipboard operations,"  
    GreyMagic says.
    In this case control means just what it says: the ability to read from
    and insert data into the victim's clipboard. There are three sample
    scripts posted with , along with a demonstration. The workaround,
    again, is to disable ActiveX and plugins until MS issues a fix.
    Finally, it is possible to read local files, again by exploiting the
    spreadsheet component.
    "The 'LoadText' method of the Range object takes a URL as its first
    argument; it throws an error if the URL supplied is not in the same
    domain as the current document.
    However, this protection can be easily bypassed by supplying a URL
    that will redirect to the desired local or remote file.
    OWC is fooled to think that the URL is safe and loads the contents of
    the file into the spreadsheet; it is then trivial to retrieve the
    content and transfer it to the server or use it in malicious ways,"  
    GreyMagic says.
    The includes two sample scripts and a demo. Once again, the workaround
    is to disable ActiveX and plugins.
    According to GreyMagic, MS has been notified of all the above
    difficulties and is currently investigating them. No doubt Redmond
    will be much irritated by disclosure ahead of their patch release; but
    since there are effective workarounds, it seems better that users
    should be informed and given the chance to take immediate steps rather
    than be kept ignorant and vulnerable.
    Anyone who wishes to retain the use of plugins can of course download
    Mozilla, a free version of Netscape that runs quite nicely, and
    safely, on Windows.
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