Just when you think Microsoft might have its act together security-wise, some clever/persistent security researcher will do their damndest to shatter your fledgling comfort with the latest exotic bug. In this case, the bug has been around since 1997 – it’s so old it’s officially Bug #4 in Internet Explorer. As in the fourth bug discovered in Internet Explorer, ever. And never fixed! Sadly, this negligence has arisen as a critical security flaw in both Windows 8 and 10, and could lead to your Microsoft Live account being exposed.
What this means for you:
This flaw does not affect the following:
- Windows 7,
- Windows 8 or 10 computers attached to a domain,
- Windows 8 or 10 computers accessed via local accounts,
- Windows 8/10 users who do not use Internet Explorer, Edge or any version of MS Outlook.
The people who fall into #2-4 are what I would call a “select” demographic, which is to say that it’s more likely you are using Windows 8 or 10 with a Live account. Via trivial exploit, a hacker could obtain your login and a hashed version of your password, and depending on how complex that password is, that hash could be cracked in less than a minute, meaning your Live account is now fully compromised. In case you weren’t sure what Live accounts can do, they give you a wide variety of access to Microsoft services including OneDrive, Skype, MS Office, and XBox Live to name a few, not to mention your actual computer, should the hacker somehow gain access to your local network or the device itself.
Before you start panicking, there is a (relatively) simple solution: change your password and switch your Live account to use 2-factor authentication. This won’t change how you log into your computer, but it will force anyone trying to use your credentials elsewhere online from using them without that second authorization that 2-factor provides, even if they manage to steal your password again. To really circumvent this bug from impacting you, switch to using a local account on your computer, or to stop using IE/Edge and Outlook until Microsoft fixes this ancient, but dangerous bug.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net