A newly disclosed vulnerability could enable attackers to reset the password and hijack older Microsoft Corp. .Net Passport accounts, according to a message posted to an online software vulnerability discussion mailing list.
.Net Passport is Microsoft's online identity management service that enables customers to use a single e-mail address and account password to sign on to a variety of affiliated services and Web sites, including Microsoft's Hotmail free e-mail service.
The vulnerability is in code used to help users who have forgotten their account password.
A "Secret Question" feature that is used to validate the identity of a user who needs to reset his account password can be manipulated by attackers on .Net Passport accounts that were set up before Microsoft implemented the Secret Question feature, according to a message posted by Victor Manuel Alvarez Castro, who identified himself as a security consultant.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Accounts created since the Secret Question feature was implemented require the account owner to establish a secret question to retrieve their password, so not all .Net Passport users are affected by the flaw.
It has been "a couple of years" since the Secret Password feature was implemented, Castro said.
The vulnerability requires that attackers know both the e-mail address and home country of the account owner. In the case of U.S. based accounts, an attacker would also need the state and zip code of the account owner.
Those conditions make it more difficult to exploit the vulnerability, according to Rafael N