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Microsoft Patch Tuesday: The Ping of Death returns, IPv6-style

This month's round of Microsoft patches address must-fix vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and Microsoft Mail

By Joab Jackson
August 13, 2013 04:45 PM ET

IDG News Service - Internet Explorer proved to be the biggest security concern for Microsoft in the last month, with the browser spurring 11 of the 19 critical vulnerabilities the company issued in August's "Patch Tuesday" set of software fixes.

Such a sizable group of critical patches once again underscores the need for users and organizations to update their copies of Internet Explorer. Their reluctance to upgrade has been a source of ongoing frustration for security professionals, who repeatedly warn of the dangers of unpatched browsers and remind everyone how easy it is to actually update.

With this month's fixes, Microsoft also learned about the precarities of relying on third-party software and witnessed the return of the once menacing Ping of Death, which this time could pester IPv6 networks.

Overall, Microsoft released eight bulletins on Tuesday. Three of these bulletins were marked as critical, with the remainder categorized as important.

Security researchers are advising system administrators to apply the patches for Internet Explorer first, because of how easy it would be for attackers to exploit these previously undisclosed vulnerabilities.

"Every Internet Explorer is affected," said Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer of security and compliance software provider Qualys.

With these vulnerabilities still in the browser, an attacker could plant malicious code on a Web site that could read data or make changes on users' computers.

Users' reluctance to update their browsers is baffling for security experts, given that "Internet Explorer is relatively easy to patch." Kandek said. "To go a new version shouldn't really break anything within your organization, (even) if you do that very aggressively and without much testing."

"If you experience breakage, you have a real security problem on your hands," Kandek said. In this case, "the solution would be to isolate the applications that you use with the old browsers onto machines you only use for that [task]. You should not use unpatched browsers to surf the Web," Kandek said.

The second critical bulletin addressed three remote execution vulnerabilities in Windows Exchange Server, which would be of interest to organizations whose employees are using the Web version of the Microsoft Outlook mail client.

These vulnerabilities don't actually reside in Microsoft software but rather with the software that Oracle had developed to render documents, called OutsideIn.

Microsoft uses the software to render files, such as PDF files, so they appear in the browser Outlook Web Access client. Viewing an attachment with an embedded malicious code could compromise the server. Oracle patched the software in April and then again in July, and now Microsoft is passing along the updated version to its users.

"The server side process, which generates the Web page, could get compromised and let an attacker control an Exchange server," said Amol Sarwate, the director of Qualys Vulnerability Labs.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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