March 15, 2012, 12:48 PM — Microsoft disappointed the space-enthusiast and science-fiction communities yesterday by announcing it had identified a critical worm hole that could be exploited within 30 days.
Unfortunately the worm hole Microsoft identified is a flaw in the remote-access functions of Windows, not the a hole in the fabric of space and time often used in Star Trek and other SF universes as a short-cut to interstellar travel.
It meant a weakness in its Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)that could allow hackers to find and access a remote computer, load malicious code and run it, all without the user's permission.
Microsoft's blog post on the RDP flaw identified the weakness and offered a patch that could fix it.
Because the flaw is in a Windows service used frequently by corporate IT support apps and managers, Microsoft also offered workarounds for companies that need to test the patch before installing it.
There's no guarantee how long it would take a hacker to create an exploit that would take advantage of a hole providing root-level access to a stranger's PC, but the effort " will not be trivial – we would be surprised to see one developed in the next few days. However, we expect to see working exploit code developed within the next 30 days," according to Microsoft.
Hole bypasses security goes straight to the root of Windows
The flaw, identified in Microsoft documentation as CVE-2012-0002, is present in all versions of Windows would allow hackers to access and load code on a remote system by working on levels of the operating system lower than those that require network authentication.
RDP runs in kernel-mode with full Systems access permissions, meaning any exploit using RDP successfully would have not only the right to load and run code, but full root access and potentially control over the victim's machine as well.
The good news, according to Microsoft, is that the whole RDP protocol is disabled by default, so PCs that have not been configured to use any of a host of consumer-oriented remote-access, remote control or remote support tools may not be as vulnerable as those that do.