Patches fix MS Office

Patch Tuesday fixes critical Excel, Outlook, Web Component and Office flaws

As expected, March is the month of the Microsoft Office
suite patch. Microsoft rolled out four "critical" security
bulletins ' all with as many as 12 remote code execution
(RCE) vulnerabilities, according to security experts.

"Because all four of the patches affect Microsoft Office, these
patches cannot be ignored or delayed," said Don Leatham, director
of solutions and strategy for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Lumension
Security. "Microsoft Office is the leading productivity suite in
use by the very large majority of organizations, from small
businesses to global enterprises, so these critical patches should
be seriously considered for immediate deployment by all
enterprises."


The first "critical" fix is for several versions of Excel
including 2000 SP3. However, it is deemed as only "important" for
Excel 2003 and Excel 2007, as well as Office 2004 and 2008 for Mac.
SP3 of Excel 2003 is not affected by this hole.


"Patch this one ASAP if you have exposure to malformed Excel
documents on a regular basis," said Eric Schultze, chief technology
officer for St. Paul, Minn.-based Shavlik Technologies.
"Angst-ridden computer users can now sleep easy knowing that they
can now open malicious Excel documents without fear of being
hacked."


The next patch fixes a flaw in the way Outlook 2000
SP3, Outlook 2002 SP3, Outlook 2003 SP2 and SP3, and Outlook 2007
handle certain e-mail links. With the flaw left unpatched, a random
hacker could create a specially crafted Web page with a link that
said, for instance, click here to e-mail me." Or the hacker can
simply paste a malicious Web address link into the body of the
e-mail or simply an e-mail address with a hyperlink. Clicking on
that e-mail link enables the intruder to run code on the network
via an RCE exploit that the patch addresses.


The third item is a typical client-side
vulnerability fix. Redmond said the security update resolves two
privately reported vulnerabilities in Office that could allow
remote code execution if a user opens a malformed Office file. The
bulletin is rated "critical" only for Office 2000 SP3 and
"important" for Office XP SP3 and Office for Mac 2004.


The last fix for this month's release is deemed
"critical" and affects Office Web Components 2000. Microsoft says
it has already released several updates but this patch signifies
that the software giant is playing it safe to protect programs such
as Visual Studio .NET, BizTalk Server, Office 2000 and XP.


Ben Greenbaum, senior research manager for Symantec Security
Response, said all of this month's bulletins are serious, but that
the one for Office Web Components stands out because "these ActiveX
components are widely distributed and relatively easy to
exploit."


"We've observed attackers continuing to target Web plug-ins in
their quest to quickly and quietly install malicious code onto
user's computers," Greenbaum said.


Out of all the patches, the last is the only one that may
require a restart, according to Microsoft.


In addition to its monthly update of its Windows Malicious
Software removal tool, Redmond rolled out two non-security,
high-priority updates on Microsoft Update (MU) and Windows Server
Update Services (WSUS), as well as three non-security,
high-priority updates for Windows on Windows Update (WU) and
WSUS.


This article originally was published
March 11 on RedmondMag.com, an affiliate Web site of
GCN.com.


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