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Rare critical Word vuln is the star of December Patch Tuesday

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Microsoft is planning to release seven bulletins next Tuesday, five of which tackle critical vulnerabilities, as part of its final Patch Tuesday update of 2012.

All currently supported operating systems (including Windows 8 and Windows RT) will need patching. The updates feature critical updates for Redmond's IE 9 and IE 10 browser software, a critical update for Microsoft Word, and critical updates for some of Microsoft's server products (Exchange and Sharepoint).

Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, singled out the Word update for particular attention.

"Bulletin 3 is special, as it affects Microsoft Word and is rated critical, which happens very rarely," he said.

"Usually Microsoft downgrades even Remote Code Execution Office vulnerabilities to 'Important', because a user interaction (e.g., opening a malicious file) is required. In this case we assume the 'critical' rating comes from Outlook, which can be configured to use Word to visualise documents in its preview pane. This is an automatic mechanism that does not require user interaction. In any case, this is will be an important bulletin to watch out for."

Microsoft pre-release bulletin can be found here.

Paul Henry, a security analyst patch management firm Lumension, noted that Microsoft has managed to reduce the number of updates it issued this year compared to 2011.

"In 2011, Microsoft had 100 bulletins for the calendar year, of which 34 were critical, 63 important and 3 moderate," Henry said. "In 2012, they reduced the number of bulletins by close to 20 percent, coming in at 83 bulletins for the year, of which 35 were critical, 46 important and 2 moderate. It’s great to see that Microsoft’s Secure Coding Initiative is paying off, reducing the number of vulnerabilities in their software." ®

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