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Microsoft Patch Tuesday Offers Critical Fixes, But Not for XP

Microsoft Patch Tuesday Offers Critical Fixes, But Not for XP
By Jennifer LeClaire

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On Patch Tuesday, Microsoft issued a flurry of patches including a critical fix for all versions of IE, which comes on the heels of the out-of-band patch for IE released on May 1. However, Microsoft on Patch Tuesday reiterated that support for Windows XP has ended and computers still running the out-of-date OS are vulnerable to security risks.
 


On Tuesday, Microsoft released eight security bulletins -- that’s more than IT admins have seen in the last few months. The May patches include 13 vulnerabilities and two critical fixes.

But before Microsoft outlined the security fixes, Windows senior marketing communications manager Bandon LeBlanc reiterated that April 8th was the end of Windows XP support.

“Because support has ended for Windows XP, we are no longer releasing updates to the general public for Windows XP going forward,” he said in a blog post. “If you continue to use Windows XP without support, your computer will still likely work but will become vulnerable to security risks and over time its performance will be affected.”

A Flurry of Fixes

We caught up with Russ Ernst, director product management at security firm Lumension, to get his take on the bulletins. He told us Patch Tuesday comes on the heels of the out-of-band patch for IE, MS14-021, released by Microsoft May 1.

“Interestingly, a critical fix for all versions of IE is the second of two critical patches today too, with bulletin MS14-029,” he said. “This one covers just two CVEs as well as last week’s out-of-band so it isn’t considered a cumulative update. If you haven’t gotten around to pushing out MS14-021, use MS14-029 instead.”

As if IT admins didn’t have enough to do, Ernst also reminded that Adobe is planning to release security updates for Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat. Adobe has assigned a priority rating of one for each of the four updates in the works.

On Top of Everything Else . . .

We also turned to Craig Young, a security researcher at Tripwire, to get his take on the flurry of May patches. He told us Microsoft has taken another step this month to limit exposure from unknown vulnerabilities with MS14-024.

The update to MSCOMCTL enables address space layout randomization, or ASLR, a computer security method used to protect from buffer overflow attacks. By doing this, Young said, Microsoft aims to break exploits that use MSCOMCTL as a resource for building exploit payloads.

“MS14-025 is another vulnerability that attackers have been using in real-world attacks,” Young said. “In this scenario, a flaw in Group Policy Preferences allows attackers to potentially retrieve obfuscated domain account credentials which have been stored for running privileged processes.”

As Young explained it, this cuts off a popular post-exploitation technique used after compromising a domain-joined workstation that can query group policy preferences. The fix from Microsoft disabled the related feature, he said, but affected administrators will still need to remove previously stored passwords.

“On top of the numbered advisories, Microsoft is rolling out an update for bundled Flash versions on Windows 8 and later, a functionality change to UEFI affecting secure boot and offline backups, and most interestingly, is back porting the ‘credentials protection’ functionality recently released for Windows 8.1 to Windows 7 and 8 users,” said Ross Barrett, a senior manager of security engineering at security firm Rapid7, in a blog post. “That last change is meant to make credential replay attacks much harder to accomplish, but is not a complete fix for 'pass the hash' type attacks."
 

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