Microsoft has issued a work-around to address an Internet Explorer vulnerability that one leading security organisation described as probably "the most dangerous flaw found in Windows workstations" to date.
The IE Script hole lets crackers embed malicious Visual Basic code into Microsoft's Access database management software via Internet Explorer.
Victims can be compromised by simply visiting a rogue Web site or by previewing e-mail containing malicious code, without actually opening any attachments or executing files, according to a security flash issued last week by the System Administration, Networking and Security (SANS) Institute.
What makes the hole such a dangerous programming error in Windows software is that it allows crackers to potentially take full control of a victim's computer, said Alan Paller, director of SANS.
"The problem is really serious," said Ryan Russell, manager of information systems at SecurityFocus.com, a security company and moderator of Bugtraq, a popular security bulletin board.
All users of Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0 workstation edition who have installed Microsoft Access 97 or 2000, while running Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher, are vulnerable to this sort of "total compromise", according to the SANS alert.
Microsoft's work-around, posted on its site on July 13, is to set an Administrator password for Microsoft Access. This will cause Microsoft Access to prompt the user for a password before any Visual Basic for Applications code is executed within an Access database.