Today I saw a new post at Mark Russinovich’s blog which I take as a response to my recent musings about Vista security features, where I pointed out several problems with UAC, like e.g. the attack that allows for a low integrity process to hijack the high integrity level command prompt. Those who read the whole article undoubtedly noticed that my overall opinion of vista security changes was still very positive – after all everybody can do mistakes and the fact UAC is not perfect, doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s a step into the right direction, i.e. implementing least-privilege policy in Windows OS.
However, I now read this post by Mark Russinovich (a Microsoft employee), which says:
"It should be clear then, that neither UAC elevations nor Protected Mode IE define new Windows security boundaries. Microsoft has been communicating this but I want to make sure that the point is clearly heard. Further, as Jim Allchin pointed out in his blog post Security Features vs Convenience, Vista makes tradeoffs between security and convenience, and both UAC and Protected Mode IE have design choices that required paths to be opened in the IL wall for application compatibility and ease of use."
And then we read:
"Because elevations and ILs don’t define a security boundary, potential avenues of attack, regardless of ease or scope, are not security bugs. So if you aren’t guaranteed that your elevated processes aren’t susceptible to compromise by those running at a lower IL, why did Windows Vista go to the trouble of introducing elevations and ILs? To get us to a world where everyone runs as standard user by default and all software is written with that assumption."
Oh, excuse me, is this supposed be a joke? We all remember all those Microsoft’s statements about how serious Microsoft is about security in Vista and how all those new cool security features like UAC or Protected Mode IE will improve the world’s security. And now we hear what? That this flagship security technology (UAC) is in fact… not a security technology!
I understand that implementing UAC, UIPI and Integrity Levels mechanisms on top of the existing Windows OS infrastructure is a hard task and it would be much easier to design the whole new OS from scratch and that Microsoft can’t do this for various of reasons. I understand that all, but that doesn’t mean that once more people at Microsoft realized that too, they should turn everything into a big joke? Or maybe I’m too much of an idealist…
So, I will say this: If Microsoft won’t change their attitude soon, then in a couple of months the security of Vista (from the typical malware’s point of view) will be equal to the security of current XP systems (which means, not too impressive).