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Last patch train of the decade rolls in from Redmond

Zero-day IE fix stars in Black Tuesday update

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A critical update addressing a zero-day vulnerability in Internet Explorer starred among the six bulletins published by Microsoft on Tuesday, as part of Redmond's last Black Tuesday update of the decade.

Microsoft closed out 2009 with six security bulletins - three rated "critical" and three classified as "important" - tackling 12 security vulns. The critical IE patch (MS09-072) addressed five vulnerabilities, including a zero-day bug that had become the target of hacking attacks. The other two critical updates address serious bugs in Windows and Microsoft Project, each of which created a possible mechanism for hackers to load malware onto vulnerable systems.

Andrew Storms, director of security operations at patching specialist nCircle, notes that the IE update includes fixes for two previously undisclosed bugs that only affect IE8, the newest browser from Microsoft. He suggests the appearance of flaws peculiar to the latest, supposedly most secure version of IE will focus attention on Redmond's secure code development practices.

"There's no way for Microsoft to avoid the speculation that these bugs should have been found during the software development and quality assurance cycle, but the reality is that this was bound to happen," Storms said. "Every product has bugs and more features means greater attack surfaces. It is depressing for both Microsoft and its customers though that it happened so quickly."

"What's missing from today's patch is the fix for an outstanding denial of service attack that affects Microsoft's newest operating systems; Windows 7 and 2008 Server," Storms added.

Microsoft's security advisory is here. A more graphical and easy-to-understand overview, courtesy of the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Centre, can be found here.

Microsoft's security gnomes released a total of 74 security bulletins this year, roughly in par with the previous annual tallies. McAfee reports that Redmond released 77 bulletins in 2008, 69 in 2007, and 78 in 2006. ®

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