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January 12, 2004
Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate Local User Elevation of Privilege

Revision History
1/21/2004 - Updated Affected products to include Symantec AntiVirus for Handhelds Corporate Edition v3.0. This is the ONLY corporate product that could potentially be impacted by this issue.

Risk Impact

Local access required. Automatic LiveUpdate launches as a scheduled task if so configured and only on systems running retail versions of Symantec products. Impact of this issue would result in elevated privilege on the host system only and is highly dependent on system configuration and environment.

Security analysts from Secure Network Operations notified Symantec of a potential issue with the Automatic LiveUpdate feature, available with retail versions of some Symantec products, when running as a scheduled task. If the system is configured as a multi-user system with privileged and non-privileged user access, a non-privileged user could potentially access and manipulate the Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate GUI functionality to gain privileged system access.

Affected Components
Symantec Windows LiveUpdate 1.70.x through 1.90.x
Symantec Norton SystemWorks 2001-2004
Symantec Norton AntiVirus and Norton AntiVirus Pro 2001-2004
Symantec Norton Internet Security and Norton Internet Security Pro 2001-2004
Symantec AntiVirus for Handhelds Retail and Corporate Edition v3.0

Not Affected
Symantec Windows LiveUpdate v2.x
Symantec Java LiveUpdate (all versions)
Symantec Enterprise products (Symantec Enterprise products do not support the Automatic LiveUpdate functionality with the exception of Symantec AntiVirus for Handhelds Corporate Edition v3.0)

Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate, a functionality included with many Symantec retail products, is launched by the system scheduler on system startup and then periodically after startup. Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate checks for available updates to any supported Symantec products installed on the system.

Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate can be configured to notify the user when Symantec product updates are available for download. Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate does this via a LiveUpdate icon displayed in the system taskbar. At this prompt, the user may choose to open an interactive LiveUpdate session to retrieve any available updates.

When a vulnerable version of Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate is initially launched at startup it is assigned Local System privileges. During the time when an interactive LiveUpdate session is available, and only during this session, a non-privileged user could potentially manipulate the LiveUpdate GUI functionality to gain elevated privilege on the local host. For example, the user could gain privileges to search all system files, assume full permission for directories and files on the host, or add themselves to the local administrative group.

Symantec Response
Symantec verified this vulnerability does exist in the current supported versions of Automatic LiveUpdate shipped with many Symantec retail products. This issue is fixed in the latest release of Symantec Windows LiveUpdate v2.0.

Symantec Windows LiveUpdate 2.0 is available for download from the Symantec technical support site at http://www.symantec.com/techsupp/files/lu/lu.html.

To determine your version of Symantec LiveUpdate:

  1. Open any Symantec retail product installed on your system, e.g., Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2004
  2. Click on LiveUpdate in the toolbar
  3. Click on the LiveUpdate system menu to see the drop-down selections
  4. Click on "About LiveUpdate" to see the version of LiveUpdate you are running

If you are running a version of Symantec LiveUpdate prior to v2.0, download Symantec Windows LiveUpdate v2.0 from the support site indicated above to upgrade your system to the latest version of Symantec LiveUpdate.

Mitigating Circumstances
While effectively exploiting this issue would permit a non-privileged user to gain privileged access on the local host, there are mitigating circumstances that greatly reduce the risk of exploitation in Symantec's Automatic LiveUpdate:

  • Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate is only implemented in retail versions of Symantec products with the exception of Symantec AntiVirus for Handhelds Corporate Edition v3.0, which uses AutoLiveUpdate to check for updates when connected to the network.

  • The system is vulnerable only if the interactive LiveUpdate capability is available to the user

    • Automatic LiveUpdate must be configured with the option enabled to notify the user when updates are available

    • If the system is a single-user system, this issue would not have an impact

    • If the system IS configured as a multi-user system with privileged and non-privileged user access to the host system, the non-privileged user would require an authorized user account on the host system and must be logged on interactively to exploit this issue

  • Elevated privileges can be gained only on the local system, which normally limits any impact

Symantec takes the security and proper functionality of its products very seriously. Symantec appreciates the efforts of KF and the Security Network Operations security team in identifying this issue and coordinating with Symantec during the verification and fix process to properly update and protect Symantec customers. Information on this and other security issues can be found at the Secure Network Operations Inc. web site, http://www.secnetops.com/

The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposure (CVE) initiative has assigned the name CAN-2003-0994 to this issue.

This is a candidate for inclusion in the CVE list (http://cve.mitre.org), which standardizes names for security problems.

Symantec takes the security and proper functionality of our products very seriously. As founding members of the Organization for Internet Safety (OISafety), Symantec supports and follows the principles of responsible disclosure. Symantec also subscribes to the vulnerability disclosure guidelines outlined by the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC).

Please contact secure@symantec.com if you feel you have discovered a security issue in a Symantec product. A Symantec Product Security team member will contact you regarding your submission. Symantec strongly recommends using encrypted email for reporting vulnerability information to secure@symantec.com. The Symantec Product Security PGP key can be found at the end of this message.

Symantec has developed a Product Vulnerability Response document outlining the process we follow in addressing suspected vulnerabilities in our products. This document is available below.

PDF Symantec Vulnerability Response Policy PGP Symantec Product Vulnerability Management PGP Key

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Last modified on: Monday, 25-Oct-2004 15:19:02 PDT