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Microsoft to patch under-attack XML bug next week

Will also issue unexpected update for IE9

July 5, 2012 04:19 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft today confirmed that it will patch a vulnerability in Windows next week that has been exploited by an increasing number of attacks.

Initially, experts wondered whether Microsoft would patch the XML Core Services (MSXML) vulnerability in Windows that it first acknowledged June 12, but failed to fix even as attacks leveraging the flaw steadily ramped up.

"Where's the patch for the XML Core bug?" asked Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security, in an interview earlier Thursday. "The MSRC [Microsoft Security Response Center] blog makes no mention of it," noted Storms. "It's unlike them not to call out [an impending patch]."

Storms was not the only security researcher to notice the omission of the MSXML fix on the MSRC blog, but he was the most vocal about it.

"[A fix] for MSXML could be in one of the planned updates," Storms acknowledged, "but if they were going to issue a fix, I think they would say so."

Microsoft later confirmed to Computerworld that it will patch the MSXML vulnerability next Tuesday.

Storms praised the quick turn-around by Microsoft, but stuck to his guns on his criticism of the company's initial decision to keep quiet.

"I do applaud them for the reaction speed," said Storms in a follow-up instant message reply to questions. "But really if they are doing such a good job, again why not tell the world? It would begin to dispel the fears about any active attacks knowing that a patch is just around the corner."

Storms had a point: The Microsoft XML Core Services (MSXML) vulnerability has attracted attention not only from the technology press, which has focused on the quick appearance of attacks exploiting the unpatched bug, but also obviously from hackers.

On Monday, for example, AlienVault Labs reported that a malicious email campaign was trying to dupe recipients into visiting websites where attackers exploited the MSXML. Some of those emails had been aimed at workers in the defense and aerospace industries.

The popular-with-hackers Blackhole exploit toolkit has also recently added attack code targeting the MSXML vulnerability.

Microsoft Thursday said it would ship nine security updates next week, three critical, to patch 16 bugs in Windows, Internet Explorer, Office and several components of its SharePoint enterprise collaboration platform.

Of the nine updates, three were rated "critical" by Microsoft and six as "important," the first- and second-most serious rankings in its threat system. All of the critical updates and one of the half-dozen important ones could be used to hijack Windows PCs, said the company.

What Microsoft dubbed "Bulletin 2" in today's alert also caught researchers' eyes because it will patch one or more vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), the newest of the company's still-supported browsers.

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