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Flaw in IBM SPSS Statistics Puts Sensitive Data at Risk

Researchers at Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs have identified an arbitrary code execution vulnerability in IBM SPSS Statistics, the popular statistical analysis solution.

Researchers at Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs have identified an arbitrary code execution vulnerability in IBM SPSS Statistics, the popular statistical analysis solution.

The bug, patched recently by IBM, exists because an ActiveX control parameter is insufficiently sanitized, and it can be exploited by passing malicious code through the problematic parameter. The vulnerability has been assigned the CVE identifier CVE-2015-0140 and a CVSS score of 4.1.

“SPSS Statistics ActiveX control on Windows 32 bit installations could allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code on the system. By persuading a victim to visit a specially-crafted Web page with Internet Explorer, a local attacker could exploit this vulnerability to execute arbitrary code on the system or cause the application to crash,” IBM wrote in its advisory.

Fortinet researchers noted that while the security hole is difficult to exploit, it poses a serious threat because organizations using SPSS handle a lot of valuable intellectual property such as proprietary research.

“While the possibility of a system crash would be inconvenient, it’s the ability to execute arbitrary code on a system with access to corporate and/or research data that is especially worrisome,” Fortinet said in a blog post. “Obviously, the value of data that might be compromised on system used for advanced analytics could be quite high. Because the entire system could theoretically be compromised, attackers could set up remote access to data stores beyond the local machine and exfiltrate data at will.”

The flaw affects SPSS 22 on Windows 32-bit installations. IBM patched the vulnerability with the release of SPSS Statistics 22.0 Fix Pack 1 and the SPSS Statistics 22.0 FP1 IF022 interim fix. The company advises users to install the fix pack and then the interim fix.

The security bug does not impact SPSS version 23, released in March, but researchers believe many customers have not upgraded their installations.

“Upgrade cycles on this type of software tend to be relatively slow due to the cost, complexity, and legacy programming many organizations have in place for their analytics and applications built on SPSS,” Fortinet noted.

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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