Microsoft patches IE, Word, Windows
The three software updates released today are all rated 'critical'
IDG News Service - Microsoft Corp. has released three software updates that patch critical security flaws in its products, including a patch for an Internet Explorer vulnerability first reported last week. The company also released patches for Microsoft Word and for a feature of the Windows operating system used by a number of applications.
All three of the patches, which Microsoft calls "updates," are rated "critical," meaning that the flaws they fix could allow malicious code to be installed on a user's computer with very little user action. The updates, released as part of the company's monthly security bulletin, affect current versions of Windows and Internet Explorer as well as some older versions of Word, according to Stephen Toulouse, security program manager at Microsoft's security response center.
The Internet Explorer and Windows patches appear to be the most significant, since the flaws they address could be used by an attacker to take control of a user's system via a maliciously encoded Web page, said Neel Mehta, team leader of X-Force research at security vendor Internet Security Systems Inc. (ISS) in Atlanta. The Internet Explorer bug is significant because security experts have already shown a way that it could be exploited by an attacker, he said.
Last week, Microsoft issued a work-around to the problem, which concerns a file used by Internet Explorer called Javaprxy.dll. Today's patch fixes the underlying problem, Metha said.
ISS is also concerned about the Windows vulnerability, which relates to a feature called the Microsoft Color Management Module. This software is used to ensure that colors look the same when they are being rendered on different types of hardware and is employed by a number of widely used applications, including Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer, Metha said.
"Our initial analysis shows it being pretty conducive to exploitation," Metha said. "Any application that uses the built-in Windows facilities to show JPEG images, or possibly some other images, could be an attack vector for this vulnerability."
In fact, Microsoft has already privately been made aware of exploits of this flaw, Toulouse said.
The Word vulnerability, which could allow an attacker to gain control of a user's system when a maliciously encoded Word document is opened, doesn't affect the most recent version of the word processor. However, users of Word 2000 and 2002 will need to install the patch, Toulouse said.
The three patches are detailed in Microsoft Security Bulletins MS05-35, MS05-36 and MS05-37. A new version of a previously released bulletin entitled MS05-33 was also released after Microsoft discovered that the Windows bug that it addresses also affects the company's Servicesfor Unix 2.0 and 2.1. products, Toulouse said.
All three of the patches will probably require a reboot in order to take effect, Toulouse said. "If the files are in use when the update is applied, and in these cases they're pretty much going to be, that is what forces a reboot," he said.
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