Microsoft today said it would deliver nine security updates next Tuesday, all but one affecting Windows. Five are pegged "critical," the company's highest threat rating.
One researcher speculated that most of the updates will tackle bugs introduced when a Microsoft programmer added an extra "&" character to a vital code library.
Of the nine updates previewed today in the monthly advance notification, eight affect various versions of Windows, while the ninth deals with vulnerabilities in Office, Visual Studio, Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA Server), BizTalk Server and other products.
One of the eight Windows updates also affects what the bulletin dubbed "Client for Mac," and which Microsoft later confirmed refers to Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac, software that lets Mac users connect to Windows-based machines.
In addition to the five critical updates, four are marked "important," the next rating down in the company's four-step scoring system.
"It won't be a go-take-a-nap month," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security. "The good thing is that we're not looking at a lot [of vulnerabilities] in the public domain, so that should give everyone some time, a week or two at least, to test the updates before they deploy them."
One of the nine bulletins, however, appears to address the only unsolved issue Microsoft has publicly acknowledged: one or more flaws in its Microsoft Office Web Components (OWC). "The outstanding bug we know [exists] they disclosed July 13," Storms said. "And Bulletin 1 today is the only one that affects the Office Web Components. I'd say that Microsoft's on track to patch that this month."
Last month, Microsoft issued a security advisory related to OWC, saying that hackers were already exploiting an unpatched, critical vulnerability in a company-made ActiveX control, putting people running Internet Explorer (IE) at risk. The flawed ActiveX control is used by IE to display Excel spreadsheets in the browser.
Microsoft's advisory went out the day before its regularly-scheduled July batch of security updates; most analysts had not expected to see a fix make the July slate.
Storms' bet that Bulletin 1 will patch the problem seems safe. At the time it issued the advisory, Microsoft warned that users running Office XP, Office 2003, ISA 2004, ISA 2006 and Office Small Business Accounting 2006 were vulnerable to attack through IE. Today, Microsoft called out all those programs, as well as several others, as affected by the expected update.
It's also possible that several of the bulletins outlined today will update Microsoft software that previously contained flaws inherited from a buggy code library, said Storms.