Matasano 's Blog quoted my post on Office bugs, and Ivan Arce made some excellent points in the comments:
1. 'They are inherently one-shot. You send a bad file, and while the user might try to open it multiple times, there is no way the attacker can try different values for anything in order to get control.”'
IA: OK. good point but…think about scale & diversity. Even in a targeted attack sending a one-shot client-side exploit against N desktop systems will with one hardcoded address will offset the value of ALSR with some probability of success for a given N. The attacker only needs ONE exploit instance to work in order to break into ONE desktop system, after that it is game over. Client-side bugs are one shot against the same system but not necesarrilly so against several systems in parallel.
Very true, I did overlook this. It also explains the use of really low-value phone-home bots as payload: If you're going to attack in such a "wide" manner, you essentially accept detection as long as you can compromise one of the relevant clients. This means that whatever you are sending will be lost, and therefore you won't send anything more sophisticated than a simple bot.
” 2. There can not be much pre-attack reconnaissance. Fingerprinting server versions is usually not terribly difficult (if time consuming), and usually one can narrow down the exact version (and most of the times the patch level) of a target before actually shooting valuable 0day down the wire. With client side bugs, it is a lot more difficult to know the exact version of a piece of software running on the other side - one probably has to get access to at least one document created by the target to get any data at all, and even this will usually be a rough guesstimate.”
IA: Hmmm not sure about this either. I would argue the desktop systems (clients) leak A LOT more information about themselves than servers and, generally, those leaks are much less controlled and/or controllable and easier to elicit than server leaks. After all, as a general principle, client apps are _designed_ to provide information about themselves.
Not to mention that a lot of information about your desktop systems has *already* leaked and is publicly available on the net now (server logs, emails, documents, stray packets, etc.), you just need to know how and where to look for it.
I disagree on this to an extent. My system leaks information about my mail client because I participate in public forums etc, but the majority of corporate users never gain any visibility outside of the internal network. Most people just don't use mailing lists or usenet etc. So it will be comparatively easy to attack some security officer (hey, I know his exact client version), but the CEO's secretary (which might be a lot more interesting as a target, and less likely to notice her computer is compromised) will be more or less "invisible".