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Microsoft's Patch Tuesday plugs critical holes in IE, Office

'Exploitability Index' debuts

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Microsoft on Tuesday issued updates plugging at least 20 security holes in Windows, Office, and other products. They came as miscreants sent out phony emails urging people to download malware that masqueraded as critical Windows alerts.

Among the critical bugs squashed were several hiding in Version 6 of the Internet Explorer browser when running on Windows 2000 and Windows XP. The vulnerabilities could allow attackers to remotely install malware on a machine with no interaction required from the user or to intercept data while in transit. IE 7 and IE 6 running on Vista are also vulnerable but to lesser degree, Microsoft said.

Another batch of vulnerabilities affect the Excel spreadsheet program in Microsoft Office. The remote execution bug is rated critical for users of Office 2003 and important for more recent versions. Another critical vulnerability affected IE killbits in third-party applications.

As always, SANS has a highly readable summary of the offerings, which is available here.

This was the first Patch Tuesday in which Microsoft offered increased information about the likelihood of vulnerabilities actually being exploited. The company said here (click on the "Exploitability Index" link) exploit code for a bug in Windows internet printing service is already circulating. In all, eight vulnerabilities were carried a warning that "consistent exploit code" was likely.

The updates came as miscreants blasted out spam that purported to a new "experimental private version of an update for all Microsoft Windows OS users." It attempted to trick people into clicking on a program that installs a trojan known as Win32/Haxdoor, which logs passwords and other sensitive information typed on a PC and sends this data back to the attackers.

Microsoft never uses email to send patches. ®

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