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New IE Exploit Spoofs Web Sites

By Matthew Broersma
December 17, 2004

Security researchers have uncovered a spoofing flaw in Internet Explorer that could turn out to be the perfect holiday gift for scammers.

The bug, which has been confirmed on a fully patched Windows XP system with IE 6.0 and Service Pack 2, could allow a scammer to display a fake Web site with all the attributes of a genuine, secure site, including the URL and the icon indicating SSL security, according to researchers.

Because the vulnerability is found in one of Internet Explorer's default ActiveX controls, scammers could use it to spoof the content of any site, researchers said. Users could be lured to the fake site via a link in an e-mail message, a tactic that continues to prove effective despite efforts to educate users.

"Ordinarily, to spoof a site you have to have some issue on the Web site that you want to manipulate, which restricts what you can do," said Thomas Kristensen, chief technology officer at independent security firm Secunia, in a telephone interview. "Because this is embedded in IE by default, it's possible to inject content into any Web site. There's no way for a Web site to protect itself against this."

There is currently no patch for the bug. Users can protect themselves by turning off ActiveX or switching the security level for the "Internet" zone to "high," researchers said.

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