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gregg keizer
Senior Reporter

Microsoft releases stopgap POODLE protection for Internet Explorer

Oct 30, 20142 mins

Next Patch Tuesday is Nov. 11, but a Fixit tool disables SSL 3.0 in the meantime

Microsoft on Wednesday gave Windows customers an easier way to block attacks against Internet Explorer (IE) meant to steal browser session cookies and impersonate victims.

Two weeks after Google researchers revealed the “POODLE” attack method and about the same length of time before Microsoft releases its next round of security updates, Microsoft offered one of its automated “Fixit” tools to disable SSL 3.0, an aged and vulnerable Internet encryption standard.

The tool can be found on Microsoft’s website.

Hackers can exploit SSL 3.0 using “man-in-the-middle” attacks to make off with session cookies. Those stolen cookies would let the hackers mimic their victims, automatically logging into sites to make online purchases, read email or grab files from cloud storage services.

When the researchers unveiled POODLE, the top three browser makers quickly told customers what they would do to protect them against attacks.

Google plans to disable SSL 3.0 at some point, but has not said when. Meanwhile, Mozilla announced that it would update Firefox with a fix on Nov. 25. Microsoft issued a security advisory that described how IE users could disable SSL 3.0 themselves, but like Google, did not reveal a patch timetable.

Because IE relies on the cryptographic code in Windows, Microsoft must patch the operating system. The company’s next scheduled security updates are to reach users on Nov. 11.

The Fixit disables SSL 3.0 with one click, and can be called on as a stopgap until Microsoft delivers comprehensive fixes, which the company said might take several months.

Mozilla has also released a stopgap. The same day it announced that Firefox 34 would disable SSL 3.0 — and that Firefox 35 would implement additional protections — the open source developer released an interim add-on, SSL Version Control, which turns off SSL 3.0 in Firefox 33 and earlier.

Apple patched OS X on Oct. 16, although the efficacy of the anti-POODLE fix has been questioned.