Security Experts:

Microsoft Patch Tuesday Fixes Critical Bugs as Sun Sets on Windows XP

Microsoft pushed out critical patches for Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer today as the company closed the door on support for Windows XP.

All totaled, four security bulletins were issued to cover several vulnerabilities across Microsoft Internet Explorer, Windows and Office. The top priority for the month should be MS14-018 and MS14-017, which address issues in Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word respectively, blogged Dustin Childs, group manager of response communications for Microsoft Trustworthy Computing.

"First and foremost, Microsoft has closed the loop on the MS Word vulnerability addressed in last week’s advisory, 2953095 with MS14-017," blogged Russ Ernst, director product management at Lumension. "This is a critical vulnerability for three CVEs that could allow remote code execution if a user opens a RTF file in Word. This bulletin also addresses Outlook when configured to use Word as the email viewer. Known to be under active attack, a hacker using this vulnerability could gain user rights."

Both the Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer bulletins address issues that can be exploited to remotely execute code. According to Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, the IE bulletin affects all versions from IE 6 to IE 11.

"Microsoft gives this bulletin an exploitability index rating of “1”, meaning that attacks can be expected with the next 30 days," he blogged. "The attack vector would be a malicious webpage that the user has to browse. Patch together with MS14-017."

The final two bulletins cover issues in Windows and Microsoft Publisher. Both provide remote code execution opportunities for attackers, but are considered less exploitable than the issues addressed by the other bulletins. In the case of the Windows vulnerability, exploits only work under special conditions, while the Publisher is only sparsely installed and does not have any known exploits in the wild, Kandek explained.

Besides the Microsoft patches, administrators should also be mindful of patches released today by Adobe Systems for Adobe Flash Player. According to Adobe, none of the vulnerabilities are known to be under attack.

"If the exit of Windows XP sounds a little uneventful, keep in mind that administrators are still dealing with the fallout from the recent Pwn2Own competition, which revealed vulnerabilities in all of the major browsers and in Adobe’s Flash Player plug-in," Ernst blogged. "This triggered updates from Google, Mozilla, and Apple, in addition to this month’s Internet Explorer cumulative update. Microsoft also re-issued Security Advisory 2755801, which is a notification to update the Flash Player plug-in now native in Internet Explorer. This is the 22nd revision to this advisory, and we can expect to see many more revisions going forward as long as the bad guys continue to target the Adobe Flash Player plug-in for web browsers."

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