MS investigates possible Exchange 2003 flaw

Microsoft Corp. is investigating a potential security issue with Exchange Server 2003, which would be the first since the e-mail server was launched last month.

The potential flaw lies in the Outlook Web Access (OWA) component of Exchange Server 2003. A network administrator at a Nashville-based provider of investment performance reporting tools found that users logging in to OWA could be logged in to another user’s mailbox at random and have full access privileges.

“This seems to be a major security flaw and we have had to shut off OWA indefinitely because of the issue,” the network administrator wrote in a posting to NTBugtraq, a well-known security mailing list.

A preliminary investigation by Microsoft indicated that the issue occurs only with Kerberos authentication disabled, which the vendor said is uncommon. “We recommend that our customers ensure that Kerberos authentication is enabled, which is the default configuration,” Microsoft said in a statement Friday.

However, the network administrator said he did not disable Kerberos and experienced the problem with the default configuration of Exchange Server 2003. “I want to stress that the problem occurred with the default configuration,” he wrote in an e-mail message.

Microsoft has already developed a patch, which is currently being tested, the network administrator said. Microsoft would not comment on any patch because it is still investigating the issue.

“Upon completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to protect our customers, including providing a fix and additional mitigation information if either is warranted,” the vendor said.