It’s Patch Tuesday and Microsoft has released seven security bulletins, affecting Windows, Word, Internet Explorer and other Microsoft software. A total of 20 vulnerabilities are addressed by the updates. We covered the details in a previous post. As always, we encourage everyone running affected software to apply the updates as soon as possible.
The change will occur shortly after the release of Internet Explorer 10, on November 15, 2012.
Internet Explorer 8 is the most recent version of the web browser that runs on Windows XP, so anyone who uses Internet Explorer on Windows XP to access Google Apps will need to switch to a different web browser, or upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 after November 15.
Update 2012Sep22: As promised by Microsoft, patches for Internet Explorer versions 9 and earlier were made available yesterday. The patches are available through regular update channels, including Windows Update and Microsoft Update. Security Bulletin MS12-063 has all the details, including links for downloading the updates separately.
Update 2012Sep21: A fix for this issue, promised earlier this week by Microsoft, was announced yesterday. Anyone using Internet Explorer for web browsing is strongly encouraged to install the fix immediately. A proper (i.e. fully tested) patch will be available from Microsoft later today.
Update 2012Sep18: Microsoft has issued a security bulletin that goes into some detail about this issue and suggests workarounds. Apparently you can install the ‘Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit’, or configure Internet Explorer to either prompt before running ActiveX scripts or prevent them from running altogether.
A newly-discovered vulnerability in most versions of Internet Explorer is being exploited in current, ongoing attacks.
Anyone using IE 6, 7, 8 or 9 on Windows XP, Vista or 7 is potentially at risk. To become infected, a user need only visit a web site that contains the exploit code. Typically, trojan malware is then installed silently on the user’s computer. The computer is then open to further attacks as well as remote control by the perpetrators.
Internet Explorer 10 is not affected.
The exploit code may be placed on a web site without the knowledge of the site owner, if the site is not secure.
This vulnerability and the associated attacks are serious enough to warrant extreme caution when using Internet Explorer. Some experts are recommending discontinuing the use of Internet Explorer until a fix becomes available.
Microsoft has issued a bulletin that provides additional details.
Update 2012Sep22: A Security Advisory published yesterday by Microsoft announced the availability of a patch for Flash in Internet Explorer 10. A related post on the Microsoft Security Response Center blog explains how security updates for Flash in Internet Explorer will be handled in the future. Anyone using Internet Explorer 10 or Windows 8 should install the Flash update as soon as possible.
Update 2012Sep11: Given the negative reaction to Microsoft’s previous announcement that recent Flash vulnerabilities would not be fixed in Internet Explorer 10 until after Windows 8 is released, today’s announcement is perhaps not much of a surprise. Microsoft is now saying that the Flash holes in IE10 will be plugged much sooner than originally announced. However, there will still be an easily-exploited delay between the launch of Windows 8 and the point at which all Windows 8 systems are patched.
Recently, Google switched to an integrated version of Flash in the Chrome web browser. They did this to simplify the update process: Chrome users no longer have to worry about keeping their browser’s Flash plugin up to date.
Microsoft has apparently done something similar with Internet Explorer 10, which is included with Windows 8. Unfortunately, the recent Flash vulnerabilities were not addressed in Internet Explorer 10 when Windows 8 was finalized recently. Which means Windows 8 has at least two very serious security holes in its integrated web browser, out of the box.
Microsoft says that the Flash vulnerabilities in Windows 8’s IE10 will be fixed during the regular patch cycle, but it’s not known exactly when the updates will appear.
Nefarious hackers are no doubt preparing for a surge of new Windows 8 systems to appear on the Internet, all with these rather large holes, ready to exploit.
If you are using Windows 8 or plan to start using it soon, your options are:
- Stop using Internet Explorer. This isn’t really a viable option, since the browser is integrated into the O/S.
- Disable Flash in Internet Explorer 10, assuming this is even possible.
- Avoid all Flash content while using Internet Explorer 10. This is increasingly difficult to accomplish, given the prevalence of Flash content on the web.
Windows computers configured for auto update should receive these patches in the next 24 hours. If you are responsible for any Windows computers that don’t use auto update, you should run Microsoft Update on those computers as soon as possible. If you’d like to avoid using Internet Explorer (required for Microsoft Update), you can download the updates as a disc image. For the technical details, here are links to all eleven of this month’s bulletins: