IE5 Security Hole Lets Snoopers Scoop Your Clipboard
Microsoft is denying that a major security hole discovered in IE 5 is a problem - it's a feature of the software's security, according to the company. The hole allows web servers to read whatever is in an IE 5 user's clipboard cache, without their knowledge or consent. Microsoft software that allows remote servers access to data on local machines without knowledge or consent has of course been topical recently. The latest problem/feature has been documented by http://www.sysopt.com here - the page also has a little demo to prove it can be done. Reading the clipboard can be done via a small piece of Java/ActiveX code, and remote servers can do this essentially because IE 5's default installation has the security features set to allow it.
IE 5 includes an ActiveX control called the Dynamic HTML Editing Component, which is intended to allow WYSIWYG editing capabilities to be added to sites. This allows script on an HTML page to access a user's clipboard (sorry, we're too dumb to understand why this should be helpful). If the Web designer uses the vanilla HTML Edit Control, then the user gets a warning. But if the "Safe" version is used, then it can just happen.
According to sysopt.com, the fix is as follows: "In IE5, go to Tools, Internet Options, Security, then click on the Custom Level button, find the 'allow paste operations via script' option, and click on Prompt or Disable, then click OK, and click Apply."
That seems fairly plain sailing, but it's bizarre that the default installation of IE 5 leaves something like this switched on. Microsoft responded to the revelation of the security issue by pointing out that OEMs could switch the setting off before distributing IE 5, and saying: "The option is set to 'enable' by default to allow enhanced functionality." Exactly what enhanced functionality can be achieved by leaving your clipboard wide open to snoopers does not appear to have been made clear.
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