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MS releases dirty dozen

Nine critical fixes star in August Patch Tuesday update

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Sysadmins can look forward to booking some overtime this month after Microsoft release 12 patches as part of its regular Patch Tuesday update cycle. Redmond describes nine of 12 patches as critical.

Three of these patches cover browser-related vulnerabilities, three involve Windows security bugs, while another is designed to address an Office vulnerability in PowerPoint.

The two other critical flaws involve a Windows Server service buffer overflow and a Microsoft Management Console cross-site scripting flaw.

Security clearing house US CERT warns that the Server service flaw (MS06-040) is being actively targeted by hackers, making the flaw particular serious. Experts warn the flaw creates a vector for computer worms, such as the infamous Blaster.

Mike Murray, director of vulnerability at nCircle, comments: "The server service vulnerability is particularly worrisome because it is exploitable by an anonymous user, so anyone who can connect to the vulnerable computer over the network can potentially exploit it and create widespread havoc. If an exploit is easy to write, we could expect to see something within 48-72 hours. This vulnerability is in the RPC area, as was the M Blaster worm, and unfortunately there is a lot of existing knowledge and pre-written code available for exploit writers."

Security firms reckon Microsoft is patching old wounds from some of its other fixes. "Four out of the nine critical patches actually supersede previously published patches, and in total around two dozen CVE (common vulnerabilities and exposures) vulnerabilities are fixed by new patch updates this Patch Tuesday," said Alan Bentley, managing director of net security firm PatchLink.

"Because security vulnerabilities are usually errors unintentionally put in code by programmers, the chances of finding a new vulnerability in an adjacent area of code or functionality is much more likely than your chances of identifying a brand new and unique vulnerability. This issue can be seen clearly in the number of patches that 'supersede' one another - where the same buggy code has been fixed again and again. Software bugs are a lot like roaches, if you find one, there are likely many more lurking somewhere close by."

An overview of the 12 patches can be found in Microsoft's advisory here. ®

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