Microsoft on Tuesday issued five security bulletins, one rated critical, as part of its regular security update cycle. The company also released Security Advisory 2854544 to improve cryptography and digital certificate handling in Windows.
We caught up with Lamar Bailey, director of security research at IT security firm Tripwire, to get his take on the latest round of patches. At first glance, he told us, it looks pretty light. Unfortunately, there's more than meets the eye.
"We have grown to expect IE updates every month but MS13-047 is pretty big with 19 CVEs [common vulnerabilities and exposures]. It's just a matter of time before one of these gets exploited," he said. "It is interesting that about half these vulnerabilities were reported by Google. Google recently announced their seven-day vulnerability notice program and they certainly appear to be doing a good bit of security research."
Patches To Focus On
From Bailey's perspective, two other bulletins stand out this month. The first is MS13-049, a vulnerability in Windows networking that effects Windows desktop and server operating systems from Vista to Windows 8 and Server 2008 to Server 2012.
"This is a denial of service condition and, once inflicted, the system will need to be rebooted or the network stack has to be restarted. It's surprising that newer versions of Windows are more susceptible to this bug than the older versions," Bailey said.
On Windows Vista, Server 2008, Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 this is only a local vulnerability. But on new platforms like Windows 8 and Server 2012, he said, this bug can be exploited across the network, proving that newer is not always better.
"It takes thousands of packets to trigger this vulnerability because Windows must get into Synflood detection mode," Bailey said. "Once this happens, various layers of network and security should detect and block the attack before it becomes a problem. However, in the age of distributed denial of service attacks, this could still be a concern for some users."
He also pointed to the Office 2003 bug bulletin, MS12-051, which is being exploited in the wild in targeted attack scenarios. He noted that this bug probably affects relatively few users since Windows 2003 is old, but Office for Mac 2011 is also affected.
"I guess Mac is the 'redheaded stepchild' of the Windows Office product family," Bailey said.
More PKI Management Options
Dustin Childs, group manager of Response Communications for Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, discussed Security Advisory 2854544 in a blog post. The advisory gives enterprises more options for managing their private-public key infrastructure (PKI) environments.
"This functionality, initially built into Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and Windows RT, is now available for Windows Vista through Windows 7," Childs said.
"Over the coming months, we'll be rolling out additional updates to this advisory -- all aimed at bolstering Windows' cryptography and certificate-handling infrastructure. Our efforts here aren't in response to any specific incident; it's the continuing evolution of how we handle digital certificates to ensure the safest possible computing environment for our customers."