A Google security researcher has found high severity vulnerabilities in enterprise and consumer products from antivirus vendor Symantec that could be easily be exploited by hackers to take control of computers.
The flaws were found by Tavis Ormandy. A researcher with Google’s Project Zero team who has found similar vulnerabilities in antivirus products from other vendors.
Symantec didn’t immediately respond to a request for comments on the vulnerabilities.
Security researchers have criticized antivirus vendors many times for performing risky operations like file parsing with unnecessarily elevated privileges. Historically, such operations have been a source of many arbitrary code execution vulnerabilities in all sorts of applications.
Ormandy found vulnerabilities in the Symantec code used to handle ZIP, RAR, LZH, LHA, CAB, MIME, TNEF and PPT files. Most of these flaws can lead to remote code execution and are wormable. Meaning they can be used to create computer worms.
“Because Symantec uses a filter driver to intercept all system I/O [input/output operations]. Just emailing a file to a victim or sending them a link to an exploit is enough to trigger it. The victim does not need to open the file or interact with it in anyway.” Ormandy said in a blog post.
Even more surprising is the fact that Symantec appears to have used code from open source libraries. But failed to import patches released by those projects over the years.
For example, Ormandy determined that Symantec products were using version 4.1.4 of an open-source unrar package that was released in January 2012. The most current version of that code is 5.3.11. A similar situation was also observed for another library called libmspack.
“Dozens of public vulnerabilities in these libraries affected Symantec. Some with public exploits,” Ormandy said. “We sent Symantec some examples, and they verified they had fallen behind on releases.”
Symantec has published a security advisory that lists the affected products and contains instructions on how to update them. All Norton products — the consumer line — should have been updated automatically.