on Tuesday rolled out 11 security bulletins in the final Patch Tuesday of 2013. All told, Redmond issued 106 bulletins in 2013, a 22 percent increase over 2012.
For December’s part, there were five critical and six important patches fixing 24 vulnerabilities. Microsoft made good on its promise to fix the Graphics Components vulnerability in bulletin MS13-096. Security researchers say this critical vulnerability should be first on the IT admin’s list of priorities, despite the hotfix Microsoft issued in November.
“It affects Windows, Office and Lync through Office 2007 installed on XP. In this vulnerability, an attacker needs to convince a user to preview or open a bad TIFF image for exploitation,” Paul Henry, a forensic and security analyst at Lumension, told us. “Because we know persuading users to click isn’t always that hard to do, a patch for this one is definitely welcome.”
Still Open for Attack
Unfortunately, a second active zero-day vulnerability remains open for attack because it was discovered too late to make it into the December release. Wolfgang Kandek, CTO at Qualys, told us it is also less severe as it depends on a second vulnerability for delivery on the targeted machine. There are currently limited targeted attacks in the Windows kernel component in XP and Server 2003.
“In the wild, exploits have been delivered through a PDF document abusing an older vulnerability in Adobe Reader. Fortunately, the vulnerability only affects the older Windows, versions XP and 2003, and allows an attacker to become administrator and then install malware to take control of the machine,” he said.
“If you have a vulnerable configuration, we recommend you implement the work-around specified in security advisory KB2914486 and turn off the NDPROXY component. Side-effects should be minimal and limited to the telephony and modem interfaces which should not be in use in most environments,” he added.
Time to Upgrade?
If you are impacted by either zero day attack, it means you are running older versions of Microsoft software and should evaluate whether it is worth maintaining that strategy. In particular, Kandek said, Windows XP and Office 2003 are on their way out and will be discontinued in April 2014.
“Their security situation will then become very quickly unmaintainable as Microsoft will cease to publish updates,” he said. “However you are not alone. There are almost 15 percent of enterprise users who still have Windows XP in their networks. We have seen some substantial drop-offs in recent months, but it is doubtful that they will be able to eliminate all XP machines from their networks by April 2014.”
Even with the patches, all is not safe. On Tuesday, Trustwave’s SpiderLabs discovered a piece of malware that collects data , masking itself as a module for Microsoft’s Internet Information Services web-hosting software -- and this piece of malware is undetectable by almost all antivirus products. Currently the malware is targeting credit card data on e-commerce sites, but can also be used to steal logins or other sensitive information .