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Network Security

Microsoft Patch Tuesday To Bring Heavy Office Emphasis

Microsoft Patch Tuesday To Bring Heavy Office Emphasis
March 8, 2013 10:56AM

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"The focus has changed direction from last month, where Office wasn't addressed, to four of seven advisories this month relating to Office," said security expert Ross Barrett about Microsoft's next Patch Tuesday. Of the seven security fixes Microsoft is releasing for Patch Tuesday, four are rated as critical.

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Call it March Madness. Microsoft on Tuesday will roll out seven security bulletins. Four of the bulletins are rated critical and three are rated important -- and some require restarts.

The critical bulletins affect Microsoft Windows, Silverlight for Office, and Microsoft Server software. The other bulletins aim to fix vulnerabilities in Office and Windows.

"IT admins can't seem to catch a break this year. First, the never-ending stream of Java issues that has kept folks on their toes since January," said Paul Henry, a security and forensic analyst at Lumension. "Now they've got another busy month of patches ahead of them, with seven total patches from Microsoft, four of which are critical. However, once again the issues outside of Microsoft will likely eclipse the Patch Tuesday issues this month."

A Heavy Office Focus

Ross Barrett, senior manager of security engineering at Rapid 7, told us it was interesting that Bulletin 1 does not list Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7 as vulnerable. It may be an omission, he said, or it may be that the fix was included when IE 10 was released for Windows 7 systems last week. Regardless, he said, this is where he would prioritize his patching efforts.

"From this vantage, my gut feel is that Bulletin 3 is the second most important to patch, followed by either of the two other critical issues," Barrett said. "The information disclosure issues in Office I would patch when it isn't going to impact your users in any way. One of them, at least, will not require a restart."

Barrett also pointed to Bulletin 4, which is only an "elevation of privilege" vulnerability. Still, he said, it's listed as critical. That may mean that it is remotely exploitable with a known user name, or that it is already being exploited in the wild.

Meanwhile, Bulletin 2 is listed as critical in Silverlight, which is interesting to Barrett since Silverlight is not among Microsoft's most popular apps. He suggested users who have installed Silverlight should deploy this patch quickly since the risk would be on par with a Flash vulnerability.

"The focus has changed direction from last month, where Office wasn't addressed, to four of seven advisories this month relating to Office," Barrett said. "It seems likely that the seventh bulletin is another Windows kernel or kernel driver issue, since it is a core operating system vulnerability, requires a restart, and the risk is elevation of privilege."

PWN2OWN Results

In other security news, the ZDI's PWN2OWN competition is going on at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver. PWN2OWN awards prizes ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 to security researchers that demonstrate vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Java.

"In Wednesday's run, prizes have been claimed for Oracle Java by James Forshaw, Oracle Java again by Joshua Drake, IE10 on Windows 8 by VUPEN, Google Chrome on Windows 7 by a team from MWR Labs, John and Nils, and finally Mozilla Firefox and Oracle Java, both by the team at VUPEN," said Wolfgang Kandek, CTO at Qualys. "You can expect patches for these vulnerabilities to be released over the coming weeks."

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