How Did They Come

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2006-01-12 Print this article Print

To This?"> Its a shame in a way. I was a customer of the earliest, original Norton Utilities. (I actually wrote fan mail to Peter Norton and he wrote back!) The applications had universal appeal, but it was very techie-oriented software. In later versions, trying to appeal to a larger audience, Symantec (which had bought out "Peter Norton Software") essentially dumbed down the software, and this directory hiding stuff is a part of that.

How far back does the feature go? Its an important question, and one I posed to Symantec. Until last spring I was using a copy of SystemWorks 2002 on one of my computers. I could have upgraded, but there was never anything new and better in new versions of SystemWorks. If I were still using it, would I have an update available? What about 2001, 2000 and so on? According to Symantecs advisory the 2005 and 2006 versions are vulnerable, but Symantec tells me that it works for earlier versions as well, at least for 2002.

Microsoft looks to zap Sonys DRM "rootkit." Click here to read more.

By the time security became a serious mainstream issue and malware writers became competent, the Norton Protected Recycle Bin was basically a legacy feature skating along from version to version, probably with little attention being paid to it. But Symantec, being a security company, should have caught this one many years ago, instead of being notified by a third party (once again we have F-Secure to thank for this, a competitor of Symantecs, and Mark Russinovich of Sysinternals).

I dont think theres much reason to worry about it. Ive never heard of any malware that tried to hide itself using this feature, and any that did would quickly be detected. Furthermore, its safe to assume that Norton SystemWorks users are much more likely than the average user to have anti-virus protection on their computers, and therefore to have some protection against any malware that attempted to utilize the hidden directory. Some versions of SystemWorks actually come with Norton Antivirus bundled.

So Im hoping that Symantec gets proactive with their users and reaches out to them to push out the update that unhides the directory, but Im not going to worry about this one. On the other hand, I hope it sends a signal through the industry to analyze your products for techniques like this that could be abused. Better to deal with it proactively than to be the subject of the next expose.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms 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. More from Larry Seltzer

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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