RE: [VulnWatch] Blank Administrator password in DELL XP Professional install
From: Michael Scheidell (scheidell_at_secnap.net)
Date: Tue, 28 Jun 2005 04:37:39 -0400 To: "James Bender" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>
Wrong. read the report. Retail XP pro doesn't have the problem. MANY
OEM's decided to take a short cut and it bit them.
Wrong, read the report, I already addressed the logging on locally
Wrong, read the report, read the link to the IBM report, IBM fixed it.
From: James Bender [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, June 27, 2005 11:09 PM
To: Michael Scheidell; email@example.com
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
Subject: RE: [VulnWatch] Blank Administrator password in DELL XP
This is not a vulnerability on just DELL machines. This is a
default out of the box configuration for any Windows XP Pro, or Windows
2003 Operating System, regardless of type (I.E - OEM, Open, or Retail
The real vulnerability to be exposed in something like this is
the fact that Microsoft sets up a "back door" support account on all
instances of Windows XP. Albeit disabled, this can lead to security
risks if the administrator disables the account.
Some Machines implement a local security policy that prevents
the local administrator from logging on locally, and only allowing the
"USERS" to log in to the machine.
Like I said before, it's not a "DELL" issue. Perhaps DELL is
being targeted since the OEM software defaults that way. I have
installed Windows XP fresh from Open, OEM, or Retail, and experience the
same thing. Null Password on Administrator account.
From: Michael Scheidell [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Mon 6/27/2005 1:08 PM
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
Subject: [VulnWatch] Blank Administrator password in DELL XP
Vulnerability in DELL Windows XP Professional - default hidden
Administrator account allows local Administrator access
Systems: DELL(tm) Laptops with Windows(tm); Professional
Vulnerable: DELL Laptops with pre installed Microsoft Windows XP
Not Vulnerable: DELL Laptops with Retail Microsoft Windows XP
professional, RTM, SP1 and SP2
Category: Unauthorized Administrator Access
Classification: Default Authentication
Remote Exploit: Maybe
Local Exploit: Yes
Vendor URL: www.dell.com
Author: Michael Scheidell, SECNAP Network Security
Internal Release date: May 31, 2005
Notifications: May 31, 2005, Emailed various security and cert
addresses at DELL
Vendor Response: June 7, 2005: Dell Emailed and requested more
SECNAP response: June 7, 2005: Sent Dell serial number and
service tag code on test system
Additional Contact: Emailed Dell on June 14, 2005 to request
Additional Contact: Emailed Dell on June 21, 2005 to request
status, cc'd original cert and security addresses
FBI Infragard Release: June 24, 2005
Public Release Date: June 27, 2005
DELL OEM XP Processional has a default hidden administrator
account. Use of this account will allow anyone with physical access to
the computer to fully control the computer, add spyware, keystroke
loggers, password stealing software and read all files, including temp
files, local files, documents, and any email that has been stored
DELL does not inform the installer of this account, nor give
them the option of putting a password on this account. If a savvy
installer finds the function to change the password for the
Administrator account, they are warned that they could lose data.
Security best practices REQUIRE a password on all administrative (and
See Dell web site on passwords:
Do's: Do's Use passwords with 6 or more characters
Do NOT's: Do not use passwords shorter then 6 characters[mss: I
assume this means blank Administrator passwords also]
There is also a link to Microsoft's Web site on Dell's site
Because DELL marketing directly targets large publicly traded
businesses, government agencies, and research organizations, these
systems are used in regulated industries. Healthcare organizations must
be HIPAA compliant; financial institutions must follow GLBA regulations;
publicly traded firms are required to adhere to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act;
federally funded educational organizations are regulated by FERPA, and
government agencies must comply with FISMA regulations. With such
organizations comprising a major portion of DELL's market share, it
would be advantageous to ensure that products incorporated into DELL
systems would help achieve compliance with such regulations.
Note: this is similar to the problem found on IBM workstations
in August, 2004 and fixed by IBM with SP2 release:
This may not be the first report of this behavior. If others
have reported on this issue before, please let us know: however, we
searched the CVE database and only found a distantly related problem
dating back to 1999 where there is a warning against default, missing or
weak administrator passwords.
The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) project has
assigned the name CAN-1999-0504 to this issue. This is a candidate for
inclusion in the CVE list (<http://cve.mitre.org>), which standardizes
names for security problems.
A retail setup implementation of Microsoft Windows XP
Professional Edition, "Out-of-Box Experience" (OOBE), requires that the
installer be given the option to add an Administrator account. During
the installation, the XP Installer states : "You must provide a name and
an Administrator password for your computer. Setup creates a user
account called Administrator. You use this account when you need full
access to your computer." While setup will not require that a password
actually be entered, it does stress that one SHOULD be entered.
Additionally, the user is prompted to create a regular user account for
In contrast, the DELL setup implementation of Microsoft Windows
XP Professional Edition does not include such steps. The existence of an
administrator account is never mentioned. Instead, the setup asks: "Who
will use this computer? Type the name of each person who will use this
computer. Windows will create a separate user account for each person so
you can personalize the way you want Windows to organize and display
information, protect your files and computer settings, and customize the
desktop. These names will appear on the Welcome screen in alphabetical
order. When you start Windows, simply click your name on the Welcome
screen to begin. If you want to set passwords and limit permissions for
each user, or add more user accounts after you finish setting up
Windows, just click CONTROL PANEL in the START menu, and then click USER
ACCOUNTS." By default, none of the accounts added in this step have
passwords. Nor is their an option to set passwords during the install.
While this is not unique to the IBM install, it is a known weakness in
the Windows XP OOBE, including retail and OEM versions. Because the
Administrator account was never requested, this leaves the system in a
very vulnerable state.
Local Exploit :
If Windows XP Professional is installed as part of a Windows
Domain, the user selection menu is absent . If there is a user menu, hit
<ctl><alt><del><ctl><alt><del> to pull the menu up
Type 'Administrator' in the Username Box.
Leave the Password Box Empty.
If there is a domain in the Domain Box, change it to the local
You now have full control over this system and can install
keystroke loggers, capture passwords, install network sniffers, browse
(and change) cookies of the users, read and copy any local documents or
Remote exploit is not possible unless someone changed the
security feature that disabled network access for accounts with blank
If remote access is possible, use MACHINENAME/Administrator as
the user authentication when connecting to the $SYSTEM or $C share.
If you gain access, you can remotely load, install, read, take
over the computer.
By using the Computer Management application and looking under
'System Tools->Local Users and Groups->Users', we see that the
Administrator account has been added and enabled. This account IS NOT
password-protected. If the installer sets a password for EVERY user
shown under the User Accounts tool in the Control Panel, THE DEFAULT
ADMINISTRATOR ACCOUNT STILL EXISTS WITH NO PASSWORD.
The Installation Setup never informed the user that the account
existed. If a user attempts to manually set a password for the
Administrator account, they are greeted with the following warning:
"Password for Administrator: Resetting this password might cause
irreversible loss of information for this user account. For security
reasons, Windows protects certain information by making it impossible to
access if the user's password is reset. This data loss will occur the
next time the user logs off. You should use this command only if a user
has forgotten his or her password and does not have a password reset
disk. If this user has created a password reset disk, then he or she
should use that disk to set the password. If the user knows the password
and wants to change it, he or she should log in, then press
CTRL+ALT+DELETE and click Change Password. For additional information,
click Help. [Proceed] [Cancel] [Help]." This warning exists in all
versions of Windows XP, but it is not presented from the Control Panel
Users Accounts tool. If a password is changed from the Control Panel's
User Accounts section, no such warning is issue; but, again, the
Administrator account is hidden from User Accounts.
In summary, Due to the lack of an Administrative Setup screen
for the DELL Windows XP OOBE flow, it is more difficult for a
security-conscious organization to manage a Windows XP-based DELL
environment. In order to protect a system, several unintuitive
additional steps must be taken on each systems in the environment,
despite warnings against taking such steps.
SECNAP has tested this situation against DELL Windows XP Pro
SP2. SECNAP also recommends that DELL notify all existing registered
clients using the vulnerable systems to upgrade, possibly to a
DELL-released patch, or modified version of SP2, that would additionally
address the issues.
On Jun 7th, 2005, Vendor requested and received serial number,
service tag and OOBEINFO.INI from the test computer
We attempted to contact them again on June 14th, and June 21st.
Original alert on IBM Workstation by Jason Lash, SECNAP Network
Security, www.secnap.com, research on DELL Laptops by Michael Scheidell,
SECNAP Network Security.
An original copy of this alert can be found here release:
Above Copyright(c) 2005, SECNAP Network Security Corporation.
World rights reserved.
This security report can be copied and redistributed
electronically provided it is not edited and is quoted in its entirety
without written consent of SECNAP Network Security Corporation.
Additional information or permission may be obtained by contacting
SECNAP Network Security at 561-999-5000