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Microsoft updates squash four critical bugs

Patch Tuesday calls for Windows and Office disinfectant

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Microsoft on Tuesday issued updates to plug a half-dozen security holes, four of which were rated critical.

The most serious is a bug in Microsoft's Jet Database Engine, a component built into Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 that works with Visual Basic, Access and multiple third-party applications. Attack code for the vulnerability went public in November, and it is actively being exploited in the wild. We've already installed this one, and if you care about security, you will too. Boo-yah!

The other critical vulnerabilities live in a wide variety of Microsoft Office versions, including versions 2000, 2003, XP, 2007 and 2004 and 2008 for Mac. One vulnerability involved the way Office handles Rich Text Format documents and another involved cascading style sheets, both of which could be used to take complete control of vulnerable machines.

The third Office vulnerability involved the Publisher component, and could allow an attacker to commandeer a machine by tricking the user into opening a maliciously crafted publisher document.

Microsoft also patched two security bugs, which it rated moderate, in its malware protection engine. The program, which is included in Windows Live OneCare and Microsoft Forefront, can lock up when encountering specially crafted files, allowing miscreants to carry out denial of service attacks.

For the time being, we are forgoing the installation of Service Pack three, following reports that its installation results in an endless reboot process. While complaints have probably been overblown, we think it's prudent to wait, given the non-critical nature of the update.

Microsoft's bulletin summary is here, but we prefer the overview provided by Sans, which is easier to follow. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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