Remote Windows NT, 95 features flawed

A Minneapolis firm has discovered multiple flaws in Microsoft Corp.'s use of an Internet Protocol that could lead to security breaches for remote access and virtual private network (VPN) users of Microsoft's Windows NT and Windows 95.

The flaws could allow a hacker to access passwords and private information and to crash a server, said Bruce Schneier, president of Counterpane Systems Inc., which discovered the flaw.

The problems result from Microsoft's use of the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, which is designed to provide the security needed to create and maintain a VPN. VPNs use the Internet backbone as a channel for private communications by carving out a private tunnel using encryption and authentication technology.

"It's really kindergarten cryptography," Schneier said. "It's broken again and again and again. There's really no way to fix it. You have to turn it off. Network managers don't have a lot of options. They can either use it or not."

The flaws could affect Microsoft Windows NT and 95 users building remote-access and VPN solutions, said Wray West, chief technology officer of Indus River Networks, a supplier of remote-access VPNs. At least two other companies, Compaq Computer Corp. and RAScom, offer a Windows NT-bundled turnkey remote-access solution, he said.

Kevin Kean, Microsoft group product manager, said the flaws are "very theoretical and not likely to be encountered in a real-world environment." He also noticed that the PPTP vulnerabilities are being addressed with current and planned product enhancements. "Security is one of those technologies that continually moves forward. There will always be the next security enhancement to add to your product," Kean said.

Schneier said his company discovered at least five flaws, including weak algorithms that allow eavesdroppers to learn the user's password, mistakes that allow encrypted data to be read and a design flaw that would allow an attacker to masquerade as the server. He said he has notified Microsoft of the flaws.

Featured

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

  • Comment
    Pilot Class. The author and Barbie Flowers are first row third and second from right, respectively.

    How VA is disrupting tech delivery

    A former Digital Service specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs explains efforts to transition government from a legacy "project" approach to a more user-centered "product" method.

  • Cloud
    cloud migration

    DHS cloud push comes with complications

    A pressing data center closure schedule and an ensuing scramble to move applications means that some Homeland Security components might need more than one hop to get to the cloud.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.