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Microsoft has released a patch to address two critical vulnerabilities in Windows, both related to the processing of graphics files, that might by used by hackers to take control of vulnerable systems.

The first vulnerability involves a flaw in Windows' Graphics Rendering Engine which comes into play when rendering certain malformed Windows Metafile (WMF) and Enhanced Metafile (EMF) image files. The security bug created a means to execute arbitrary code on vulnerable system via a specially crafted, malformed WMF/EMF file.

eEye Digital Security, the firm which discovered the flaw, said that Microsoft's fix for the critical flaw doesn't come a day too soon. "The flaw was reported March 29 — more than 200 days ago — and has been marked with a 'high' severity rating by Microsoft, as it allows malicious code to be executed with minimal user interaction through commonly used media, such as HTML, email, a link to a web page or instant messenger," it said.

The second critical flaw is a similar, high-risk heap overflow in WMF. The bug created a means for hackers to inject malware into vulnerable Windows boxes providing a user can be induced into viewing a maliciously constructed image. As with the first flaw, hackers might exploit the vulnerability by embedding the image in an Office document, or by convincing the user to view an HTML email in Outlook containing an image attachment, or via a malicious web site. Credit for discovering the second flaw goes to Venustech AdDLab, eEye Digital Security and Symantec Security Response.

Both flaws affects Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP (even those running SP2 - Microsoft's highly promoted security update) machines. That means just about every Windows user will need to apply Microsoft patch (MS05-053), the single patch released by the software giant this month as part of its regular Patch Tuesday monthly update cycle. ®

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