Microsoft patch updates

Microsoft today released four patches, three of which are deemed
critical. Security pros say that though this is a relatively light
release, the critical bulletins stretch across current and relevant
application platforms as well as operating systems, and IT shops
shouldn't take implementation of these patches lightly.

First up on the critical list is a Microsoft Word patch, an update resolving what
the software giant said were "two newly discovered and privately
reported vulnerabilities" in the popular application that could
allow hackers to deploy remote code execution (RCE) exploits
through a maliciously crafted Word file. If successful, when a user
clicks on the file, a hacker would be able to install, view, edit,
change or delete capabilities when it comes to data. The intruder
could also create new accounts and adjust user profiles for
elevated privileges on the workstation and, by extension, the
network.


The patch affects Outlook 2007 and Word versions 2003, 2002 and
2000. Additionally, Word Viewer 2003 and Word Viewer 2003 SP3, as
well as the Office Compatibility Pack for Excel, Word and
PowerPoint 2007 file formats are affected with a proviso of
"important."


One thing IT pros should note is that the update parameters are
structured for where the remedies reside, mainly at the application
level, affecting Office 2003 SP3, Office XP SP3, Office 2000 SP3,
and the 2007 Office System Software and its first update in Office
System SP1.


The second critical update would thwart RCE attacks
via the Microsoft Publisher program. Redmond stated in the release
notes that the fix is configured to resolve one "newly discovered
and privately reported vulnerability" in the program that could be
exploited when users open a corrupt Publisher file. The versions
affected are Publisher 2003 SP2 and SP3, 2002, 2000 SP3, and all
versions of Publisher 2007.


Meanwhile, the third patch, involving the Jet Database Engine
' in many processing environments, the foundation for Windows
products and applications on the OS ' is probably the most vital
of the critical patches. Security administrators, systems
administrators, and even database and network administrators would
all do well to pay attention to this bulletin as well as monitor
the results after installation.


"With this flaw, there is a possible way to create a buffer
overflow in the Jet engine," explained Jason Miller, security data
team manager for St. Paul, Minn.-based Shavlik Technologies. "By
exploiting this vulnerability, an evil attacker could take over
complete control over a machine. This can be accomplished by
sending an evil file that contains a Word document with a specially
crafted access database file embedded in the document."


According to both Miller and the Microsoft Security Response
team, a user would have to open the file for a hacker to take
advantage of the flaw; a user who views HTML e-mails in the preview
pane can also be affected by the Jet engine vulnerability (in the
latter case, the user does not have to open the document). Lastly,
a hacker can create a Web site and embed a Word or .PDF file into
it as bait for an unsuspecting user.


What's especially intriguing about this fix, one observer
suggested, is that Microsoft didn't originally plan to roll out a
fix for it. "Microsoft's initial response to this vulnerability was
that they wouldn't patch," said Tyler Reguly, security researcher
for San Francisco-based nCircle. "So, the original researcher
released the vulnerability (noting that Microsoft said they
wouldn't release a fix). Now they have released a fix but refused
to acknowledge the original researcher. This response flies in the
face of their constant messaging about responsible disclosure."


Researcher credit and controversy aside, Redmond's fix is
directed at Jet 4.0 Database Engine programs built on top of the
following operating systems: XP SP2, XP Professional x64 Edition
and Windows 2000 SP4. The fix also touches Windows Server 2003 x64
Edition, Windows Server 2003 with SP1 for Itanium-based systems and
Windows Server 2003 SP1.


Lastly, a fourth patch, while not critical, deals
with a potential denial of service hack that can lock
administrators and users out of Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft
Antigen, the Windows Defender security program, Forefront and the
Standalone System Sweeper.


Microsoft said the bulletin covers all the components of the
Microsoft Malware Protection Engine through which a hacker could
take advantage of the vulnerabilities by building a specially
crafted "spinning" file triggered by user acceptance and, more
important, scanning by the Microsoft security programs
themselves.


"One interesting thing to note about this month's bulletins is
that some of Microsoft's own key security software -- including
Windows Defender, Forefront Security and Antigen -- have been
identified as requiring an important security update," said Don
Leatham, director of solutions and strategy at Lumension Securities
in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Whenever security tools themselves are
affected -- even if they have been given 'moderate' status -- we
would encourage administrators to treat them with increased
importance. Any company that relies on these programs as part of
their overall security posture should pay close attention to this
update."


According to Redmond, two of the four patches will require a
restart of the system after installation.


And in keeping with a new design and presentation scheme started
in April, Microsoft is referring IT pros and Windows Enterprise
professionals to thisKnowledge Base article for a description of non-security and
high-priority updates on Microsoft Update, Windows Update and
Windows Server Update Services.


Featured among the programs and applications being updated are
Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool, non-security updates for
Windows Server 2008 and Vista, as well as updated info on Windows
Server 2008 Dynamic Installer and Vista Dynamic Installer, and an
upgrade of Windows Mail Junk-Email Filter.

This article was originally published May 13 at RedmondMag.com, an affilate Web site of GCN.com. RedmondMag.com and GCN.com are 1105 Media Inc. properties. Jabulani Leffall is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others.

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