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Windows Vista Security Issue

Mark Edwards

Windows Vista is the much vaunted latest release of the world's most popular operating system.

One of its biggest features is increased security. The funny thing about security is that people are adept at finding ways to defeat security measures.

This is an example of how thinking outside the box defeats Vista.

On January 30th Sebastian Krahmer posed this question on the DailyDave mailing list, could Windows Vista's Speech Command function be used by a malicious website feeding a wav file which would speak commands to download malware? The idea is deceivingly simple: the wav file plays through the speakers, the microphone picks up the commands and the Speech Command happily executes them.

A fascinating discussion ensued and George Ou decided to test it out. Here are his results:

"I recorded a sound file that would engage speech command on Vista, then engaged the start button, and then I asked for the command prompt. When I played back the sound file with the speakers turned up loud, it actually engaged the speech command system and fired up the start menu. I had to try a few more times to get the audio recording quality high enough to get the exact commands I wanted but the shocking thing is that it worked!"

There are a few obstacles to overcome to make this a viable attack like having to spell out a long URL so George tried to use the "tinyurl" service and indeed that worked just fine. The next question was whether it would work with untrained voices and George reported that it would happily work.

Disabling Speech Command is an effective prevention until Microsoft releases a patch to fix this.

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