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RIM Issues BlackBerry Security Advisory

Vulnerabilities in the BlackBerry Application Web Loader ActiveX control could allow an attacker to execute code remotely or cause Microsoft Internet Explorer to crash.

Thomas Claburn

February 10, 2009

2 Min Read

Research In Motion (RIM) on Tuesday issued a security advisory to those of its BlackBerry customers who are using BlackBerry Application Web Loader Version 1.0 and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

A vulnerability in the BlackBerry Application Web Loader ActiveX control could allow an attacker to execute code remotely or to cause Microsoft Internet Explorer to crash, the company said.

"An exploitable buffer overflow exists in the BlackBerry Application Web Loader ActiveX control that Internet Explorer uses to install applications on BlackBerry devices," RIM explains in its advisory. "When a BlackBerry device user browses to a Web site that is designed to install the BlackBerry Application Web Loader ActiveX control on BlackBerry devices over a USB connection, and clicks 'Yes' to install and run the ActiveX control, the ActiveX control introduces the vulnerability to the computer."

RIM's warning comes in conjunction with a security advisory issued by Microsoft that updates its ActiveX kill bit list to include a kill bit to prevent the BlackBerry Application Web Loader ActiveX control from being exploited.

The vulnerability can be resolved by installing an updated version of the BlackBerry Application Web Loader. The RIM Web site also includes a workaround that describes how to disable the affected ActiveX control.

In its 2008 X-Force Trend and Risk report, released earlier this month, IBM reports that ActiveX controls accounted for 46% of all browser-related vulnerability disclosures in 2008, and 66% of browser-related vulnerabilities designated "critical" or "high."

There was an overall decline in browser-related vulnerability disclosures last year, according to IBM's report.

"Unfortunately, the decline in ActiveX disclosures does not appear to be making an impact on exploitation," the report said. "As with other browser-related vulnerabilities, attackers rely upon users who do not keep their browsers current. Although Microsoft has made great strides in preventing ActiveX exploitation through changes to Microsoft Internet Explorer, exploitation remains an issue along with the continued usage of known vulnerable ActiveX controls from non-malicious Web sites."

InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of what other security measures companies can take for their mobile workforces. Download the report here (registration required).

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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