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December 13, 2004
Symantec Windows LiveUpdate Configuration Options Elevation of Privilege

Revision History

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 as well as on handheld systems running Symantec AntiVirus for Handhelds Corporate Edition v3.0. 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 NetDetect task that runs as a scheduled task as a part of Automatic LiveUpdate. 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 Windows LiveUpdate GUI functionality to gain privileged system access.

NOTE: Neither of these potential issues could be used to deploy malware or result in remote access to a client system.

Affected Components
Symantec Windows LiveUpdate prior to v2.5
Symantec Norton SystemWorks 2001-2004
Symantec Norton AntiVirus and Pro 2001-2004
Symantec Norton Internet Security and Pro 2001-2004
Symantec AntiVirus for Handhelds Retail and Corporate Edition v3.0

Not Affected
Symantec Windows LiveUpdate v2.5
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 as well as on Symantec AntiVirus for Handhelds Corp v3.0, 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 using a scheduled task call NetDetect.

When a vulnerable version of Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate was initially launched at startup it was being assigned Local System privileges. During the period when an interactive LiveUpdate session was available, and only during this session, a non-privileged user could potentially manipulate portions of the LiveUpdate GUI Internet options configuration functionality to gain elevated privilege on the local host. For example, the non-privileged 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 engineers had already identified this issue in supported versions of Symantec Windows LiveUpdate and were in the process of addressing it when Secure Network Operations analysts contacted us with their verification of the issue. Symantec addressed this issue in Symantec Windows LiveUpdate v2.5, which if customers have been keeping their systems updated should have already been installed on affected Symantec products. The latest version of Symantec Windows LiveUpdate is also available for download from the Symantec technical support site at

Determining your version of Symantec LiveUpdate:

  • Open any Symantec retail product installed on your system, e.g., Symantec Norton AntiVirus 2004
  • Click on LiveUpdate in the toolbar
  • Click on the LiveUpdate system menu to see the drop-down selections
  • Click on "About LiveUpdate" to see the version of LiveUpdate you are running
If you are running a version of Symantec Windows LiveUpdate earlier than version 2.5, you should either run LiveUpdate to get the latest updates for products on your system, or download the latest release of Symantec Windows LiveUpdate from the location provided above.

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 Symantec Automatic LiveUpdate to check for essential updates when connected to the network.
  • The system is vulnerable only if the interactive LiveUpdate capability is implemented on the system
    • 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 would not be an issue
    • 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

CVE candidate numbers will be requested from The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) initiative. This advisory will be revised as required once CVE candidate numbers have been assigned. These issues are candidates for inclusion in the CVE list (http://cve.mitre.org), which standardizes names for security problems.

Symantec appreciates the work of the Secure Network Operations security team in notifying Symantec of their findings and close coordination with Symantec to properly update and protect Symantec customers. Information on this and other security issues can be found at their Secure Network Operations, Inc. web site, http://www.secnetops.com/

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, 13-Dec-04 11:34:08