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Researchers clam up about Microsoft's rush patches

July 28, 2009 06:44 AM ET

According to Dullien and Elser, Microsoft's kill-bit solution wasn't sufficient, since a programming error in a code "library" called Active Template Library (ATL) had resulted in vulnerabilities in other crucial Windows files, and perhaps third-party applications whose developers had also used ATL. They counted at least five such files in Windows XP and at least 13 in Vista.

"The bug is actually much 'deeper' than most people realize, [and] the kill-bit fix is clearly insufficient, as there are bound to be many other ways of triggering the issue," Dullien said in his July 9 post.

It's possible that the two lines of research are related. As Robert McMillan of the IDG News Service reported Monday, the bug that let Smith, Dowd and Dewey skirt the kill-bit fix may lie in ATL, which Dullien and Elser have been investigating.

"This is a little bit different than normal responsible disclosure," said nCircle's Storms when asked his take on the researchers' silence. "There has been some information made public." Storms compared it to last year's disclosure by Dan Kaminsky, also prior to Black Hat, of a critical flaw in the Domain Name System (DNS) software used to direct traffic on the Internet. "That was kept secret, but several people guessed it before there was a patch ready, so there were friendly reminders [to those researchers] to stop discussing it publicly," said Storms.

Microsoft will issue the out-of-band updates today for IE and Visual Studio via its usual Windows Update and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) mechanisms at around 1 p.m. ET.

Later today, at both 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET, Microsoft will host a webcast to take customer questions. Typically, Microsoft hosts such webcasts the day after it delivers patches.

Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.



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