Security Experts:

Microsoft Readies 7 Security Bulletins for Patch Tuesday

Microsoft is prepping seven security bulletins for next week's Patch Tuesday, as well as moving forward with plans to make an update restricting the use of digital certificates available through the Windows Update mechanism.

Only one of the seven bulletins is rated 'Critical'; it affects Microsoft Office and Microsoft Server software. The other six bulletins are rated 'Important', and address issues in Microsoft Office, Server software, Windows, Microsoft Lync and SQL Server.

“After a rocky September that included a rare zero-day bug in Internet Explorer, Microsoft will release seven bulletins next week," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle. "The bulletin that looks most serious is a rare Microsoft Word update tagged as critical for the brand new Word 2010, but downgraded to important in Word 2003. I can't remember the last time we saw a critical bug that affected all versions of Word. It makes me remember the bad old days when Word was a nearly constant source of security problems for businesses."

"In the ‘it’s about time’ category, Microsoft has confirmed they will release the patch for the bug in the FAST search server for SharePoint discussed back in July," he added. "Since many companies use SharePoint extensively, this is definitely welcome news."

Microsoft is also making an update blocking the use of certificates with RSA keys less than 1024 bits in length available through its automatic update mechanism.

"We previously made this release available through the download center for manual deployment and testing," blogged Dustin Childs, group manager of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing. "Releasing KB2661254 to Automatic Updates and requiring that RSA key lengths be a minimum of 1024 bits will be our final step in this effort to help customers strengthen their certificates."

According to Microsoft, the private keys used in these certificates can be derived and permit an attacker to duplicate the certificates and use them fraudulently to spoof content, perform phishing attacks or launch man-in-the-middle attacks. If anyone is using certificates with RSA key lengths of less than 1024 bits, those certificates will be required to be reissued with at least a 1024-bit key length.

“Certainly more tricks than treats in this month’s update," said Alex Horan, Senior Product Manager at Boston-based CORE Security. "When you look at these patches in isolation, they don’t seem as though they are that significant. And that’s the mistake a lot of companies make, the desktop folks fix the desktop patches, the SQL group fixes the SQL patches."

"People work in vacuums," Horan said. "However, when you look at all of them holistically, you can see that a clear path is being formed that would allow hackers to work their way in from outside the network to the inside and seize control rather easily. This would be the first step in them having the ability to cause destruction or create a denial of service attack on a very large scale."

Furthermore, Horan pointed out the fact that these patches show the amount of code that is being reused.

"Bulletin 7 involves code reused in versions since 2000," he said.  "That’s 12 years of reused, and now vulnerable code. When you look at the number of versions that are affected you quickly come to the determination that these vulnerabilities have existed for quite a long period of time and have potentially been abused without user knowledge throughout several generations of the software.”

The Patch Tuesday updates are slated to be available Oct. 9. 

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