You may not know the name Matthew Hickey, but you should thank him for a recent discovery that could save you a lot of grief.

Hickey is the co-founder of a company called Hacker House.  He recently discovered a flaw that could allow for the opening of a remote search window simply by opening a Word or RTF document.

This newly discovered zero-day vulnerability is about as serious as it gets.

Here's how it works:

A specially crafted Word Document or RTF is created which, when launched, will automatically launch a "search-MS" command, which opens a Windows Search window.

This window lists executable files on a remote share and the share can be given any name the attacker desires such as "Critical Updates" and the like. That would naturally prompt an unsuspecting user to click the file name to run that file.

Naturally, clicking the file name wouldn't do anything other than install malware, which is exactly what the hackers are trying to do.

Although not quite as dangerous as the MS-MSDT remote code execution security flaw, this one is still incredibly serious. Even worse, there is not currently a patch that will make your system safer.

The good news however, is that there are steps you can take to minimize your risks.

If you're worried about this security flaw, here's what you can do:

  • Run Command Prompt as Administrator.
  • To back up the registry key, execute the command "reg export HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTsearch-ms search-ms.reg"
  • Execute the command "reg delete HKEY_CLASSES_ROOTsearch-ms /f"

Kudos to the sharp eyes of Matthew Hickey for first spotting this flaw.  We can only hope when the next zero-day rears its head, researchers like Mr. Hickey will be there to help point them out and show us how to defeat them.

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