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Seven critical in MS October patch batch

Already included in Win XP SP2, says Redmond

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Microsoft yesterday released 10 new security bulletins to fix multiple components in its Windows operating system and applications.

Redmond's October patch batch brings nine security updates (six critical, three important) for Windows and one critical update needed to correct a flaw in the Excel component of Office. Two of the Windows fixes cover critical vulns for Exchange Server 2003. In addition, there's an update to last month's notice about a serious flaw involving Microsoft's processing of jpeg image files, which only affects Office XP applications for users running Windows XP SP2.

Consumers would be forgiven for being confused with such a confusing plethora of security vulns. Redmond's answer is simple - use Win XP SP2.

"All of the critical updates in this month’s release are already included in Windows XP Service Pack 2. Customers running Windows XP SP2 who have enabled Automatic Updates will automatically receive the sole update that applies [a cumulative patch for IE, MS04-038]. Customers are encouraged to simply turn on the Automatic Updates feature in Windows XP," Microsoft said.

This month’s updates cover the aforementioned set of seven flaws in Internet Explorer, described by Secunia as extremely critical, as well as four Windows client vulns (MS04-032).

Sys admins also have to contend with a network-based remote compromise vulnerability involving SMTP (mail) service that affects Exchange as well as other Microsoft apps (MS04-035) and a separate serious flaw involving Microsoft's implementation of Network News Transfer Protocol (NTTP) service ((MS04-031). A vulnerability has been discovered in ASP.NET which may allow an attacker to bypass authentication mechanisms and access restricted resources. A flaw involving the way Microsoft's software handles compressed folders (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms04-034.mspx) has also been unearthed and patched.

All manner of mischief might be enabled through Microsoft's latest vulns, security tools vendor ISS warns. Confidential data might be snaffled from vulnerable PCs. Denial of service attacks are also possible. Alternatively, malicious code could be used to exploit the vulnerabilities and gain complete control over targeted systems.

"The network-based remote vulnerabilities could be exploited without any user-interaction, while the client-side vulnerabilities require minimal user-interaction for exploitation," ISS warns. A complete list of Microsoft's security bulletins can be found here. ®

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