Unpatched versions of some of the most popular software applications present a bigger threat to enterprise networks than malicious software, according to a warning from Bit9, an endpoint security vendor.
Bit9, of Cambridge, Mass., on June 20 released a list of 15 widely deployed applications with critical vulnerabilities that go unnoticed in enterprise IT organizations and urged businesses to clamp down on the use of out-of-date software.
The Bit9 list includes versions of several mainstream products--Mozilla Firefox, Apple's iTunes and QuickTime, Skype, Adobe Acrobat Reader and Sun JRE (Java Runtime Environment)--that contain critical, code-execution vulnerabilities.
The company said the list is limited to applications that are well-known in the consumer space and are frequently downloaded by employees, often without the approval of IT departments.
"[They] rely on the end user, rather than a central administrator, to manually patch or upgrade the software to eliminate the vulnerability," the company said in its advisory, noting that network administrators have no control over whether the vulnerable versions of the software are updated.
For example, Firefox 1.0.7 contains multiple security flaws that range from memory corruption to buffer overflows.
Users running that version of the upstart browser could put the organization at risk of arbitrary code execution, the company said.
Roger Thompson, a malware researcher who tracks Internet threats for Atlanta, Ga.-based Exploit Prevention Labs, said unpatched Firefox browsers are already becoming a big target.
Thompson has discovered a stats counter page associated with the WebAttacker toolkit that keeps track of drive-by infections from a critical Firefox browser bug.
In an interview with eWEEK, Thompson said the MSFA 2005-50 flaw in Firefox is among the many exploits pre-loaded into WebAttacker.
"Any old version of Firefox will get hit by this one," Thompson said.
WebAttacker is a do-it-yourself spyware-making toolkit that is being hawked on underground Russian Web sites for about $300 a pop.
The kit includes scripts that simplify the task of infecting computers and spam-sending techniques used to lure victims to specially rigged Web sites.
Bit9's list also includes Apple's iTunes 6.02 and QuickTime 7.0.3 because of several buffer overflows that exist in rigged image and video files.
These could allow remote attackers to launch denial-of-service or code execution attacks.
eBay's Skype 1.4 peer-to-peer telephony application makes the list because of a code execution buffer overflow issue, while Adobe's Reader v6.0.3 and 7.0.2 is included because of a boundary error that could lead to the arbitrary execution of code.
Bit9's list also includes the WinZip compression utility, America Online's AIM instant messenger, Microsoft's MSN Messenger, Yahoo's IM application, BitDefender's anti-virus client, RealNetworks' RealPlayer, the ICQ chat client and the Sony DRM mechanism used in some music CDs.