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Symantec details flaws in its antivirus software

Security specialist reveals vulnerabilities in its products that could let hackers attack PCs running the software.

Symantec has reported glitches in its antivirus software that could allow hackers to launch denial-of-service attacks on computers running the applications.

In a notice posted on its Web site this week, Symantec detailed two similar vulnerabilities found in its Norton AntiVirus software, which is sold on its own or bundled in Norton Internet Security and Norton System Works. The flaws, which could lead to computers crashing or slowing severely if attacked, are limited to versions of the software released for 2004 and 2005.

The Information-Technology Promotion Agency of Japan, a government-affiliated tech watchdog group, identified the first instance of the problem in the AutoProtect feature of the Norton AntiVirus consumer product, Symantec said. AutoProtect is used to scan files for viruses, Trojan attacks and worms.

The flaw essentially causes Symantec's software to crash when it is asked to inspect a file specifically designed to exploit the flaw. The file could be submitted either remotely from outside a system or internally by someone with physical access to a computer, Symantec said.

The second flaw, discovered by the Japan Computer Emergency Response team, can be used to launch denial-of-service attacks by scanning specific file modifications using the SmartScan feature in Norton AntiVirus. Symantec said that any malicious use of that vulnerability would specifically require someone with authorized access to a computer to exploit the issue. SmartScan is designed to scour for viruses hidden in file extensions, as well as in executable and document files.

No attacks related to either problem have been reported so far, according to Symantec. The company also said in its warning that both vulnerabilities are "low impact" threats to its customers.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec said it has informed its customers of the problems and has issued patches to correct the flaws, including sending out an automated fix to subscribers to its Automatic LiveUpdate service. The company recommended that people who have not already applied the patches do so immediately to protect against potential attacks.