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Critical kernel fix stars in Patch Tuesday updates

Excel 0-day threat remains unpatched

Seven Steps to Software Security

Microsoft released the promised three patches on Tuesday, including one critical, as part of its regular Patch Tuesday update cycle.

The critical patch in the batch (MS09-006) covers input validation vulnerabilities in the Windows kernel. The flaws create a possible mechanism for hackers to inject hostile code onto vulnerable systems, although there are no known exploits.

The two other updates released on Tuesday, both rated as "important", cover vulnerabilities in Microsoft's implementation of Secure Channel and a DNS spoofing risk, respectively.

Probably more important than any of the three updates is the absence of a fix for an unpatched Excel vulnerability, which has been the target of hacking attacks over recent weeks.

Microsoft's Patch Tuesday update summary can be found here. An overview from the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Centre is here.

In other security update news, Adobe released a much anticipated Adobe Acrobat fix on Tuesday. Version 9.1 of the software addresses a JBIG2 buffer overflow vulnerability that's become the target of hacking attack over the last three weeks or so. FoxIT released a patch addressing a similar vulnerability in its alternative PDF viewing software earlier this week.

Older versions of Adobe Reader and Acrobat are vulnerable to the same security bug. Adobe said updates for Adobe Reader 7 and 8, and Acrobat 7 and 8, should be ready by 18 March. Updated Adobe Reader 9.1 for Unix software is due a week later, on 25 March.

A more detailed look at the challenges of keeping Adobe software up to date can be found in our earlier analysis story here. ®

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