Microsoft Relevant Products/Services on Tuesday will serve up seven security Relevant Products/Services updates to patch 20 vulnerabilities in Office, Windows, SharePoint Server, SQL Server and other product lines. Only one is rated critical, but the other seven bulletins are nevertheless important.

Specifically, the critical bulletin addresses vulnerabilities in Microsoft Word. The six Important-rated bulletins will address issues in Windows, Microsoft Office, and SQL Server. This release will also address the issue in FAST Search Server first described in Security Advisory 2737111.

The October Patch Tuesday comes on the heels of an out-of-band patch to address attacks against Internet Explorer 9 and earlier versions. Most of those patches were delivered through an automated update process. Patch Tuesday will require some elbow grease from IT admins, though analysts are calling it lighter than expected.

Secure Coding Paying Off

"The lightness of last month's Patch Tuesday led many to say that this month would be a horrific Patch Tuesday for IT admins. With only seven bulletins and only one critical, those naysayers may want to retract those statements," said Paul Henry, security and forensic analyst at Lumension. "Microsoft is finally starting to see the fruit of its secure Relevant Products/Services coding initiatives."

Looking back a year or so ago, Henry noted that nearly every Patch Tuesday featured a critical issue in the operating system Relevant Products/Services platforms. That trend has significantly died down. In fact, Microsoft is issuing fewer patches overall. By this time last year, Redmond issued 82 patches. So far this year there have been only 70 patches.

"The biggest issue for this month from Microsoft is the certificate encryption. As we've been saying for the last several Patch Tuesdays, Microsoft is pushing out a patch that will break any encryption that is less than 1024-bit," Henry said. "This patch has been optional since August and we hope you've taken the time to test it and patch it. It will no longer be an option starting on Tuesday. There are still a few days left if you haven't tested it, but don't let this be an 'I told you so' moment."

Third-Party App Fixes

Beyond the critical Microsoft Word patch, Henry pointed to Bulletin 6 as interesting. It's a denial of service issue that affects Windows Authentication for DOS.

Essentially, if your shop accepts Kerberos for Windows authentication, then you are vulnerable to this DOS. Bulletin 2, meanwhile, is for Microsoft Works 9. Henry found this interesting because it is the final patch for Microsoft Works. Microsoft Works is phasing out of support next month.

"Microsoft products are the least of your concerns. We've seen a rash of zero-day vulnerabilities in Oracle's Java, with yet another one uncovered last week," Henry said. "That's three vulnerabilities that people should be concerned with. While Oracle has issued out-of-band patches for two of those vulnerabilities, one is still active in the wild. More concerning still, Apple has only patched one of the three."