Security companies in patch/don't patch spat

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Security companies in patch/don't patch spat

Seriousness of vulnerabilities debated.

Security vendor AVG has defended its decision to patch only one of four vulnerabilities found in one of its remote administration products, despite harsh criticism from the security firm that discovered the holes.

The software in question, the AVG Remote Management suite, allows administrators to install the the company's security program on networked computers.

Austrian security firm SEC Consult Vulnerability Lab said last week that four "highly critical vulnerabilities" had been found in AVG Remote Management during a routine security test it conducted.

Johannes Greil, who heads SEC Consult, said his firm had proof of concept for an authentication bypass vulnerability, remote code execution and the ability to for attackers to spoof legitimate AVG Remote Management Servers for man in the middle attacks.

Use of static encryption keys and insecure modes of operation means protocol messages in the AVG Remote Management suite could be decrypted and encrypted, Greil said.

"The vulnerabilities enable state-sponsored or criminal hackers to bypass authentication. Hence attackers are able to impersonate the administrative account and remotely control all clients," Greil said.

"Vulnerabilities regarding encryption and authentication of the communication protocol complete the picture of a software product that has been shipped with security defects," Greil said.

AVG acknowledged the vulnerabilities, but told iTnews only one was serious enough to warrant plugging.

"Of the alleged vulnerabilities, we felt only one – Remote Code Execution – required a patch, which was issued on April 29," an AVG spokesperson said.

The security vendor said it disagreed with SEC Consult's claims that attackers can spoof Remote Management Servers.

"It would be difficult to set up the style of attack described either by an external hacker or malware," the AVG spokesperson said.

Customers should install the update for Remote Management immediately, SEC Consult said. The company has documented a workaround that disables the server component as well as the client used.

It is unclear how many of AVG's stated 187 million active customers are using the Remote Management product.

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