Symantec Recommends Disabling PcAnywhere and Waiting for Security Patches

Security vendor Symantec has advised users of its pcAnywhere remote control software to disable it, because hackers with access to the product's source code could exploit security holes identified in the application.

Earlier this month Symantec confirmed that the source code for the 2006 versions of Norton Antivirus Corporate Edition, Norton Internet Security, Norton SystemWorks and pcAnywhere was stolen by hackers.

The security vendor said at the time that because the code is old, customers running Norton products today should not be in any increased danger of cyberattacks. However, the company admitted that users of pcAnywhere, which has not changed as much as the Norton products over the past few years, might face an increased risk because of the leak.

In a white paper published on Monday, Symantec revealed that encoding and encryption elements used by pcAnywhere to secure PC to PC communications were found to be vulnerable. "Therefore it is possible that successful man-in-the-middle attacks may occur depending on the configuration and use of the product," the company said.

If attackers manage to obtain the cryptographic key used by the application they can launch unauthorized remote control sessions and potentially gain access to other data stored on an internal network.

The application's login credentials can also be intercepted with the help of a network sniffer. However, for this to happen, the attacker must already have access to the network via a malware-compromised computer or some other method.

"At this time, Symantec recommends disabling the product until we release a final set of software updates that resolve currently known vulnerability risks," Symantec said in a statement.

"For customers that require pcAnywhere for business critical purposes, it is recommended that customers understand the current risks, ensure pcAnywhere 12.5 is installed, apply all relevant patches as they are released, and follow general security best practices," the company said.

Symantec's white paper includes general and pcAnywhere-specific security recommendations, as well as links to instructions for disabling or uninstalling the product.

In addition to being sold as a stand-alone program, pcAnywhere is also bundled with other Syamantec products like Altiris Client Management Suite version 7.0 or later, Altiris IT Management Suite version 7.0 or later and Altiris Deployment Solution with Remote v7.1.

"Our current analysis shows that all pcAnywhere 12.0, 12.1 and 12.5 customers are at increased risk, as well as customers with prior, unsupported versions of the product," Symantec said in its white paper.

A patch for pcAnywhere 12.5 was released on Tuesday in order to address two security vulnerabilities that could lead to arbitrary code execution or privilege escalation. The flaws were reported privately to Symantec by security researchers Tal Seltzer and Edward Torkington.

"Additional patches are planned for release during the week of January 23 for pcAnywhere 12.0, pcAnywhere 12.1 and pcAnywhere 12.5," Christine Ewing, director of product marketing for Symantec's Endpoint Management group, said in a blog post on Tuesday. "Symantec will continue to issue patches as needed until a new version of pcAnywhere that addresses all currently known vulnerabilities is released."

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