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From: pingywon at (pingywon MCSE)
Subject: Vulnerability in IBM Windows XP: default hidden Administrator account allows local Administrator access



It was MY understanding that by ?local exploit? Michael was referring to
sitting down in front of the machine


~pingywon MCSE


[] On Behalf Of
Sent: Thursday, September 16, 2004 08:16
To: Michael Scheidell
Subject: Re: [Full-Disclosure] Vulnerability in IBM Windows XP: default
hidden Administrator account allows local Administrator access



Its my understanding that there is a default policy in Windows XP that
prevents any accounts from being used over the network if they have blank
passwords.  This means the IBM machines are no more vulnerable than any
other XP machine in a "home" setup. 

Correct me if Im wrong.... :) 


"Michael Scheidell" <> 
Sent by: 

15/09/2004 23:06 


<>, <>,




[Full-Disclosure] Vulnerability in IBM Windows XP: default hidden
Administrator account allows local Administrator access




Vulnerability in IBM Windows XP default hidden Administrator account allows
local Administrator access
Systems: IBM Workstations, Laptops, etc.
Vulnerable: IBM Systems with preinstalled Microsoft Windows XP Professional
RTM and SP1
Not Vulnerable: IBM Systems without Windows XP Professional
Severity: High
Category: Unauthorized Administrator Access
Classification: Default Authentication
BugTraq-ID: TBA
CVE-Number: CAN-1999-0504
Remote Exploit: No
Local Exploit: Yes
Vendor URL:
Author: Jason Lash, SECNAP Network Security
Internal Release date: August 6, 2004
Notifications: August 6, 2004:,,,,,,
August 7, 2004:,
Vendor Response: August 13, 2004
Public Release date: September 15, 2004

Innovation for Business Advantage: IBM helps you become more competitive and
on demand by delivering products that offer industry-leading capabilities,
improve productivity and reduce the total cost of owning a PC. No other
vendor provides as wide a range of PC products, technologies and software to
support on demand businesses than IBM.

Security: As information technology increases in importance, so do the
number of threats directed against it; a comprehensive security strategy is
essential to protect vital data and to ensure continuity of operations. IBM
security solutions will help protect your system and business from network
infiltration, data destruction, information theft and unauthorized

IBM OEM XP and XP SP1 contain a default hidden administrator account.  Use
of this account will allow anyone with physical access to the computer to
fully control the computer, add spyware, keystroke loggers, password
stealing software and read all files, including temp files, local files,
documents, and any email that has been stored locally.  IBM does not inform
the installer of this account, does not give them the option of putting a
password on this account, and if a savvy installer FINDS the function to
change the password for the Administrator account, they are warned that they
could lose data. Security best practices REQUIRE a password on all
administrative (and root) accounts.

Because IBM marketing directly targets large publicly traded businesses,
government agencies, and research organizations, these systems are used in
regulated industries. Healthcare organizations must be HIPAA compliant;
financial institutions must follow GLBA regulations; publicly traded firms
are required to adhere to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; federally funded
educational organizations are regulated by FERPA, and government agencies
must comply with FISMA regulations. With such organizations comprising  a
major portion of IBM's market share, it would be advantageous to ensure that
products incorporated into IBM systems would help achieve compliance with
such regulations.

OEM Version of Windows XP Professional released by Dell, HP and others have
not shown similar characteristics and has only been observed in IBM OEM

This may not be the first report of this behavior. If others have reported
on this issue before, please let us know: however, we searched the CVE
database and only  found a distantly related problem dating back to 1999
where there is a warning against default, missing or weak administrator

The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has assigned the name
<>to this issue.
This is a candidate for inclusion in the CVE list (<>),
which standardizes names for security problems.

A retail setup implementation of Microsoft Windows XP Professional Edition,
"Out-of-Box Experience" (OOBE), requires that the installer be given the
option to add an Administrator account. During the installation, the XP
Installer states : "You must provide a name and an Administrator password
for your computer. Setup creates a user account called Administrator. You
use this account when you need full access to your computer." While setup
will not require that a password actually be entered, it does stress that
one SHOULD be entered. Additionally, the user is prompted to create a
regular user account for general use.

In contrast, the IBM setup implementation of Microsoft Windows XP
Professional Edition does not include such steps. The existence of an
administrator account is never mentioned. Instead, the setup asks: "Who will
use this computer? Type the name of each person who will use this computer.
Windows will create a separate user account for each person so you can
personalize the way you want Windows to organize and display information,
protect your files and computer settings, and customize the desktop. These
names will appear on the Welcome screen in alphabetical order. When you
start Windows, simply click your name on the Welcome screen to begin. If you
want to set passwords and limit permissions for each user, or add more user
accounts after you finish setting up Windows, just click CONTROL PANEL in
the START menu, and then click USER ACCOUNTS." By default, none of the
accounts added in this step have passwords. Nor is their an option to set
passwords during the install. While !
this is not unique to the IBM install, it is a known weakness in the Windows
XP OOBE, including retail and OEM versions. Because the Administrator
account was never requested, this leaves the system in a very vulnerable

By using the Computer Management application and looking under 'System
Tools->Local Users and Groups->Users', we see that the Administrator account
has been added and enabled. This account IS NOT password-protected. If the
installer sets a password for EVERY user shown under the User Accounts tool

The Installation Setup never informed the user that the account existed. If
a user attempts to manually set a password for the Administrator account,
they are greeted with the following warning: "Password for Administrator:
Resetting this password might cause irreversible loss of information for
this user account. For security reasons, Windows protects certain
information by making it impossible to access if the user's password is
reset. This data loss will occur the next time the user logs off. You should
use this command only if a user has forgotten his or her password and does
not have a password reset disk. If this user has created a password reset
disk, then he or she should use that disk to set the password. If the user
knows the password and wants to change it, he or she should log in, then
press CTRL+ALT+DELETE and click Change Password. For additional information,
click Help. [Proceed] [Cancel] [Help]." This warning exists in all versions
of Windows XP, but it is no!
t presented from the Control Panel Users Accounts tool. If a password is
changed from the Control Panel's User Accounts section, no such warning is
issue; but, again, the Administrator account is hidden from User Accounts.

In summary, Due to the lack of an Administrative Setup screen for the IBM
Windows XP OOBE flow, it is more difficult for a security-conscious
organization to manage a Windows XP-based IBM environment. In order to
protect a system, several unintuitive additional steps must be taken on each
systems in the environment, despite warnings against taking such steps.

SECNAP has tested this situation against IBM Windows XP RTM, as well as IBM
Windows XP SP1. The vulnerability has existed since IBM began shipping
systems with Windows XP. Due to the recent release of XP SP2, an opportunity
exists for IBM to remedy this issue in a timely fashion. SECNAP also
recommends that IBM notify all existing registered clients using the
vulnerable systems to upgrade, possibly to a IBM-released patch, or modified
version of SP2, that would additionally address the issues.

Local: Press CTRL+ALT+DEL,DEL to get a login prompt. Enter user name
'Administrator' and NO PASSWORD and Click OK.
Network: Because remote logins using accounts without passwords is disabled,
it is not typically possible to login to the system using RDP or remote

Under control panel, go to Administrative Tools. Open Computer Management.
Go to System Tools->Local Users and Groups->Users. Set a password for the
administrator account. Set a password for all other users accounts.

Vendor Response: 8/13/2004
IBM is cooperating with SECNAP concerning these issues. The IBM plan of
action is as follows:

Release a patch to our manufacturing lines that will change the preload to
include the standard Microsoft Windows "Set an Administrator Password"
Screen as part of the Microsoft Windows XP "Out-of-Box Experience." These
are the standard screens defined by Microsoft for OEMs to display during
first boot. This patch will be cut into manufacturing during September with
all world-wide systems and languages being updated no later than the end of
October. This will include both SP1 and SP2 systems (SP1 will be phased out
rapidly as Microsoft releases the different language versions to OEMs).

Provide a "Tip" on the IBM Support Web Site explaining the potential for an
Administrator account with no password to be set up and with detailed
instructions on how to correct this.

Deliver a Message via the IBM Message Center to inform customers of a
potential exposure and providing the same detailed instructions on how to
correct this. Customers must "Opt In" to get message center messages.

Jason Lash, SECNAP Network Security,

Original copy of this report (once published) can be found here

Above Copyright(c) 2004, SECNAP Network Security Corporation. World rights

This security report can be copied and redistributed electronically provided
it is not edited and is quoted in its entirety without written consent of
SECNAP Network Security Corporation. Additional information or permission
may be obtained by contacting SECNAP Network Security at 561-999-5000

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