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CERT Coordination Center

Office 2000 UA Control incorrectly marked safe for scripting

Vulnerability Note VU#35626

Original Release Date: 2000-10-31 | Last Revised: 2000-10-31


The Microsoft Office 2000 UA ActiveX control is incorrectly marked as "safe for scripting". This vulnerability may allow an intruder to disable macro warnings in Office products and, subsequently, execute arbitrary code. This vulnerability may be exploited by viewing an HTML document via a web page, newsgroup posting, or email message.


Microsoft and L0pht Research Labs have recently published advisories describing a vulnerability in the Microsoft Office 2000 UA ActiveX control. Due to the severity of this vulnerability, we are issuing a CERT advisory to help reach as broad an audience as possible.

ActiveX Overview

ActiveX controls are highly portable Component Object Model (COM) objects, used extensively throughout Microsoft Windows platforms, and especially in web-based applications. COM objects, including ActiveX controls, can invoke each other through interfaces defined by the COM architecture. The COM architecture allows for interoperability among binary software components produced in disparate ways.

ActiveX controls can also be invoked from web pages through the use of a scripting language or directly with an OBJECT tag. If an ActiveX control is not installed locally, it is possible to specify a URL where the control can be obtained. Once obtained, the control installs itself automatically if permitted by the browser. Once it is installed, it can be invoked without the need to be downloaded again.

ActiveX controls can be signed or unsigned. A signed control provides a high degree of verification that the control was produced by the signer and has not been modified. Signing does not guarantee the benevolence, trustworthiness, or competence of the signer; it only provides assurance that the control originated from the signer.
ActiveX controls are binary code capable of taking any action that the user can take. They do not run in a "sandbox" of any kind. Because of this, it is important to have a high degree of trust in the author of the control. The CERT/CC recommends against installing any unsigned controls.

Controls can also be marked as "safe for scripting" indicating that it is permissible to invoke the control from a script contained in a web page, using data and parameters provided by that page. In essence, a control marked "safe for scripting" is an assertion by the author that the control has implemented its own "sandbox" and cannot be used by an intruder to damage or compromise your system. Because you must rely on the author of the control to implement this "sandbox" correctly, controls marked as "safe for scripting" require an especially high degree of trust.

ActiveX controls are managed by the Windows registry, and it is cumbersome to audit them or examine their properties without the use of a specialized tool. One such tool is the OLE/COM Object Viewer (oleview.exe) included with the Windows NT Resource Kit. More information on oleview is available at

More information about ActiveX and COM can be found at
The Microsoft Office 2000 UA ActiveX Control

The UA ActiveX control implements the "Show Me" feature of the interactive help system. Because the control is incorrectly marked "safe for scripting", a malicious web author may use the UA ActiveX control to script interactions that result in reduced security, such as activating the dialog box for "Macro Security Setting" and selecting the least secure choice. The control is correctly signed by Microsoft.

Other Advisories and Information

L0pht Research Labs and @Stake Inc. published an advisory describing this vulnerability. They also produced a proof-of-concept exploit. These documents are available from the L0pht web site:
Microsoft has published a security bulletin, an FAQ, and a knowledgebase article describing this vulnerability. These documents are available from Microsoft's web site:


The Office 2000 UA control is able to perform a wide variety of actions within the Microsoft Office Product Suite, including

  • Launch Internet Explorer
  • Launch Microsoft Outlook
  • Launch Microsoft Visual Basic
  • Disable macro virus protection
  • Save files

Perhaps the most significant impact is the ability to set Macro Virus Protection to "Low", disabling warnings about malicious macro activity in future documents. An intruder can exploit this vulnerability to disable these warnings and then link directly to another Office document that contains malicious macros. The macros in the second document will run without confirmation and may take essentially any action desired by the intruder.

Calls to the vulnerable control may originate in script or OBJECT tags in web pages, newsgroup postings, or email messages.

As suggested by L0pht, this virus could be incorporated into an electronic mail virus such as LoveLetter or Melissa. Note that exploitation of this vulnerability under the default configuration of Internet Explorer 5 and Microsoft Outlook 2000 does not require the user to open any attachments or confirm any warning dialogs.


Apply a patch

Microsoft has produced a patch to correct this vulnerability. The patch installs a new version of the control lacking the dangerous functionality. The new version is also marked "safe for scripting".

As a result of the removed functionality, the "Show Me" and "pop-up" features of Office help will no longer function.

The patch is available through Office Update at

Limit Exposure to Vulnerability via Email

Since many e-mail applications provide the ability to start your web browser automatically, you may wish to reduce your exposure via mail messages by disabling scripting languages in your email client.

The Restricted Zone and Active Scripting

Microsoft suggests in their advisory to configure Outlook to view mail in the Restricted Zone. While this is certainly good advice, it is not sufficient to protect you from exploitation of this vulnerability if the patch for the Office 2000 UA control has not been applied.

Because the Restricted Zone still allows the execution of scripts, an intruder can send you an email message which when viewed starts Internet Explorer and immediately exploits the vulnerability. To protect against this scenario, and others like it, you may wish to disable Active Scripting in the Restricted Zone.

Instructions for changing Outlook to use the Restricted Zone are available in Microsoft's FAQ on this topic. Instructions for disabling Active Scripting in the Restricted Zone are similar to those at
Note that these changes may result in reduced functionality in Internet Explorer and Outlook.

Microsoft Outlook Security Update

Installing the Microsoft Outlook 2000 E-Mail Security Update will modify Outlook to use the Restricted Zone as suggested previously. It also limits which attachment file types are displayed in Outlook messages, and adds new prompts for accessing the address book or sending email messages. While none of these changes will protect you completely from the Office 2000 UA vulnerability described in this advisory, the update may significantly reduce the chance of the vulnerability being exploited successfully on your system by a worm propagating via Outlook.

More information about the Outlook 2000 E-Mail Security Update is available from
Other Email Clients

If you use Internet Explorer as your web browser, you may wish to disable JavaScript or other scripting languages in your email client to prevent an email message from starting IE and exploiting this vulnerability.

Vendor Information


Microsoft Affected

Updated:  October 31, 2000



Vendor Statement

Microsoft has published a security bulletin, an FAQ, and a knowledgebase article describing this vulnerability. These documents are available from Microsoft's web site:

Vendor Information

The vendor has not provided us with any further information regarding this vulnerability.


The CERT/CC believes the following systems are affected by this vulnerability:

Systems with Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office 2000 components, including

    • Word 2000
    • Excel 2000
    • PowerPoint 2000
    • Access 2000
    • Photodraw 2000
    • FrontPage 2000
    • Project 2000
    • Outlook 2000
    • Publisher 2000
    • Works 2000 Suite

      If you have feedback, comments, or additional information about this vulnerability, please send us email.

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The CERT Coordination Center thanks L0pht Research Labs and @Stake for initially discovering and reporting this vulnerability. We also thank the Microsoft Security Team for their assistance in preparing this document.

This document was written by Cory F Cohen and Shawn Hernan.

Other Information

CVE IDs: CVE-2000-0419
CERT Advisory: CA-2000-07
Severity Metric: 21.88
Date Public: 2000-05-12
Date First Published: 2000-10-31
Date Last Updated: 2000-10-31 16:57 UTC
Document Revision: 12

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