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No BEAST fix from Microsoft in December patch batch

Google, Adobe join Redmond in festive fix barrage

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Microsoft released 13 security bulletins addressing 19 vulnerabilities overnight, as part of a bumper final Patch Tuesday of the year.

Highlight of the baker's dozen is a patch for the the zero-day vulnerability exploited by Duqu (sibling of Stuxnet) worm back in October. Fixing the underlying flaw exploited by Duqu involves the resolution of a problem in how Windows kernel mode driver handles TrueType font files.

Aside from this critical update the batch includes an update to address a critical flaw n Windows Media Player. A cumulative security update of ActiveX kill bits is covered by the third, and final, critical update this month. The other ten bulletins address less severe (important) flaws in Windows, IE and Office. Altogether its a desktop-heavy patch batch, as you can see from Microsoft's summary here.

Microsoft originally promised 14 bulletins for the December edition of Patch Tuesday but one has been pulled, probably for quality control reasons. The original anticipated 14th bulletin was for the BEAST attack, but did not make it in time for the holidays due to a last minute software incompatibility uncovered during third party testing, security services firm Qualys reports. The absence of this fix means that Microsoft has issued a grand total of 99 bulletins this year, one less than the ton up that might have resulted in adverse headlines.

The BEAST attack affects web servers that support SSLv3/TLSv1 encryption. Although a patch will have to wait until January, at least, Microsoft has already published a workaround, which involves using the non affected RC4 cipher in SSL setups.

The Internet Storm Centre has produced a helpful graphical overview of the Black Tuesday updates from Microsoft here. It reckons that some of the flaws are more severe than Redmond's rating. By the ISC's count there are EIGHT critical updates. Either way you look at it, this is a lot of patching work even before we think about other security updates doing the rounds.

Google and Adobe are also joining in on the season of giving by releasing updates of their own. Adobe last week issued a critical updates for Adobe Reader and Acrobat. The latest version of Adobe PDF-reading software, Adobe Reader X, is not affected by this vulnerability thanks to the use of sand-boxing technology. So users have the option to either upgrade or apply a patch to the earlier version of the software.

In addition, Google published an update to its Chrome browser that addresses 15 security flaws, including six high-risk vulnerabilities, on Tuesday. More details of what's fixed inside Chrome 16.0.912.63, the latest cross-platform version of the browser (yes Mac and Linux fans you ought to update too), can be found here. ®

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