A Windows XP system with Service Pack 1 installed, but with no subsequent patches applied, was hacked in six minutes by a security expert in London, according to C|Net on Tuesday. A Microsoft executive who watched the demonstration found himself both enlightened and fightened.
The Windows computer was not running a firewall or other anti-virus or anti-spyware software. The challenge was to connect, on a local network, and retrieve a text file of passwords. The attack was successful in six minutes and the password file downloaded in 11 minutes.
"If you were in (a cafe with Wi-Fi access), your coffee wouldnit even have cooled down yet," said Sharon Lemon, deputy director of SOCAis e-crime unit at the event sponsored by the UKis Get Safe Online. SOCA is the Serious Organized Crime Agency, a UK government intelligence group.
Another SOCA representative pointed out that the demonstration was "purely to point out that, if a system hasnit had patches, itis a relatively simple matter to hack into it." Itis sensible, he added, to have SP2 applied, with all the current patches applied, and be running on a secure wireless network.
"In the demonstration we saw, it was both enlightening and frightening to witness the seeming ease of the attack on the (Windows) computer," said Nick McGrath, head of platform strategy for Microsoft. "But the computer was new, not updated, and not patched."
He also siad that Vista is not as "accessible to the average hacker" due to "operating system components."
TMO notes that there are likely many XP computers (and Macs) out there that users have failed to update because they havenit understood the importance or havenit gotten around to it. This demonstration is lesson for all Windows and Mac users; when the vendor publishes a patch, install it.