Detection Tool

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-09-15 Print this article Print

Theres another problem with the solutions that Microsoft has provided. Third-party programs can redistribute the vulnerable GDI+ library (generally for older versions of Windows that dont include GDI+ on their own), and Microsoft development guidelines recommend that they install it in their own directory. This means that just fixing the shared version installed by Windows or the Office version that Microsoft knows how to find doesnt excise the problem completely. You need to find all of the other copies of GDIPLUS.DLL that might be on the system.

For this reason, Microsoft created a tool, the GDI+ Detection Tool, that does such a search. You can read a description of it and get a link to download it in this Knowledge Base article. You need administrative privileges in order to run this application.

Unfortunately, this tool doesnt actually detect programs running the vulnerable versions of GDIPLUS.DLL; it only searches for programs on a fixed list that Microsoft looks for. If you have a third-party program or custom program, it may not be found. The tool also doesnt specify where the vulnerable versions are, it just tells you that you have a problem. So, its worth running, but its far from a complete solution to the problem of random GDIPLUS.DLLs out there.

Because of the third-party application problem, even Windows XP SP2 users should scan for the vulnerable version, but its unlikely to be a problem for them. In most cases, applications would use the OS version of the library, and that one is OK.

And it seems much less likely that a third-party application would be exploited unless it was a mail client or a browser. One can easily imagine a mail worm incorporating this exploit once a canned tool for it is developed. The fruit just hangs so much lower for those programs, but there cant be many of them that redistribute GDIPLUS.DLL—perhaps there are none at all.

As TruSecures Russ Cooper said Tuesday, this bug makes you want your anti-virus to scan everything, not just executable files. Of course, thats not practical, so the solution is to look for suspicious behavior as an IPS (intrusion-prevention system) would do. Fortunately, this is a tool of the future for client-side systems, and we should be reading more about them soon.

There is great potential in this vulnerability, both to be a major problem and to be a major flop. A large number of vulnerable systems are out there, and if someone can figure out a reliable exploit and if they can figure out a good delivery mechanism, then it could cause widespread havoc. But theres no guarantee that will happen.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.

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Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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