Security Experts:

Symantec: pcAnywhere Users at Increased Risk

Symantec has found itself in the unusual position of having to warn users about its own software.

At the center of the concerns is Symantec’s pcAnywhere product. PcAnywhere is a suite of programs that allows a user of the pcAnywhere remote program to connect to a PC running the pcAnywhere host if both are connected to the Internet or are on the same LAN. The technology is also bundled with numerous Symantec products. The full standalone version is included in a number of Altiris-based solutions, while the remote access component of pcAnywhere, known as the pcAnywhere Thin Host, is bundled with various Symantec backup and security products.

According to Symantec, all pcAnywhere 12.0, 12.1 and 12.5 customers are facing increased risk as a result of a 2006 source code theft that also impacted older versions of several Norton products. Users of earlier versions of pcAnywhere are also at risk as well, the company said.

“What we're actually asking customers to do is, first, upgrade to pcAnywhere 12.5 and make sure all the updates available are installed,” Symantec spokesperson Brian Modena told SecurityWeek today.

“Second, it’s important that customers run pcAnywhere on a secure and protected network (i.e. behind the company firewall or via a virtual private network),” he continued. “Lastly, customers should make sure that all of the machines that they're communicating with via pcAnywhere have endpoint protection; in other words, each machine needs to have endpoint security, malware protection, intrusion detection, data loss prevention, be password protected, etc. All of which are general security best practices.”

Earlier this week, the company released an advisory about a critical flaw in its pcAnywhere product and issued a hotfix to address the issue. According to Symantec, versions of pcAnywhere are susceptible to local file tampering elevation of privilege attempts and remote code execution, making it possible for a successful attacker to run arbitrary code on a targeted system.

“Symantec had already been working to address this issue before the disclosure of pcAnywhere source code was determined,” Modena said. “That said, as a result of the source code disclosure, customers of Symantec’s pcAnywhere product may face a slightly increased security risk as a result of this exposure if they do not follow general best practices. Symantec is currently in the process of reaching out to our pcAnywhere customers to make them aware of the situation and to provide remediation steps to maintain the protection of their devices and information.”

The company appears to be backing off advice in a recent whitepaper on best practices for the product, in which the company states that: “At this time, Symantec recommends disabling the product until Symantec releases a final set of software updates that resolve currently known vulnerability risks.”

The paper, which can be read here, recommends that customers requiring pcAnywhere for critical business purposes ensure that all relevant patches are applied as they are released, follow general best practices and upgrade to version 12.5.

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