Microsoft turns to creative tactic to block IE attacks

Security experts applaud Windows Application Compatibility Toolkit 'shim'

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Microsoft first acknowledged the CSS bug in IE on Dec. 22, several weeks after French security firm Vupen had issued a bare-bones advisory that said all versions of IE, including 2009's IE8, were vulnerable to attack.

Since then, Microsoft has admitted that it's tracking active attacks exploiting the bug. It repeated that warning today, again saying that it was seeing only "limited attacks attempting to exploit this vulnerability."

That IE vulnerability is just one of several bugs in Microsoft's products that went unpatched today. Last week, the company acknowledged a serious flaw in Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008, and also confirmed that it had seen reports that Chinese hackers were scouring the Web for information on another IE flaw.

The latter vulnerability had been reported to Microsoft last summer by Google security engineer Michal Zalewski. Microsoft and Zalewski have traded barbs over the timeline of his bug report, and subsequent release of a "fuzzer" tool that found the flaw.

Also last week, Microsoft made another new move by summarizing the bugs that had been reported but had not yet been unpatched.

In a post to the Security Research & Defense blog, Microsoft engineer Jonathan Ness spelled out the outstanding issues.

Storms applauded Ness' table. "That was pretty new for them, and a good move," said Storms. "Because many of these zero-days were reported over the holidays, there was quite a bit of confusion about what was what. It's to their credit that they are saying 'Here's everything that we know,' so we're all on the same page."

Users can download the IE shim from Microsoft's site. A link is included in a Security Research & Defense entry posted today.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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