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Microsoft Zero-Day Spurs Calls for Software Upgrades
Microsoft Zero-Day Spurs Calls for Software Upgrades

By Jennifer LeClaire
November 6, 2013 10:20AM

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Redmond needs to become more aggressive with its end-of-life policies. Users should not still be running Microsoft Office 2003, Office 2007, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. If you removed that Microsoft software, this zero-day would not exist. If it's older than five years old, it's probably time for Microsoft to end support, said security expert Tyler Reguly.
 



Targeted attacks are attempting to exploit a vulnerability in the Microsoft Graphics component -- and it impacts Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Lync. The company issued a security advisory on Tuesday to warn customers.

According to Redmond, the issue is a remote code execution vulnerability that exists in the way affected components handle specially crafted TIFF images. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by convincing a user to preview or open a specially crafted e-mail message, open a specially crafted file, or browse specially crafted Web content.

What’s more, Microsoft explained, an attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user. If it’s any consolation, users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights. But most of the news is bad.

Out-of-Band Patch Likely?

Although there is some good news. Microsoft is investigating the issue and vowed to take appropriate actions to protect customers, which may include rolling out a security update via its monthly release process or issuing an out-of-cycle security update. In more good news, the company said an attacker would have no way to force users to view the attacker-controlled content.

Qualys reports that the vulnerability is present in Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 and some of the older Windows operating systems and the currently observed attack vector is through Microsoft Word documents.

“Microsoft has provided a Fix It that turns off TIFF rendering in the affected graphics library, which should have no impact if you are not working with TIFF format files on a regular basis,” Wolfgang Kandek, Qualys CTO, told us. “Given the close date of the next Patch Tuesday for November, we don't believe that we can count on a patch arriving in time, but will probably have to wait until December, which makes your planning for a work-around even more important.”

Fix It May Not Work for You

Tyler Reguly, technical manager of security research and development at Tripwire, told us the Microsoft Fix It may not be viable for a lot of people. That’s because TIFF is a popular format and a lot of people may not be able to accomplish their daily work if their computers won't render graphics properly.

“Web developers, graphic designers, and those in marketing are just a few examples of people that may be greatly hindered by applying the fix it,” he said. “It puts people in the difficult situation of preventing a new vulnerability or doing their job. Enterprises that work heavily with graphics may have a difficult time justifying the deployment of this fix.”

Reguly’s conclusion: This latest zero-day is just another example of why people need to update to newer software versions more frequently.

“Microsoft needs to become more aggressive with their end-of-life policies,” Reguly said. “Users should not still be running Office 2003, Office 2007, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. If you removed that software, this zero-day would not exist. If it's older than five years old, it's probably time to end support.”
 

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Comment:

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Luke Jonas:

Posted: 2013-12-02 @ 11:23am PT
I am an IT Consultant in North America and I have run into many Clients who simply cannot afford to upgrade their hardware and or software to Windows 7 or 8. The main reasons are the amount of money and time it takes to accomplish this. A typical example is that their existing vertical business application software needs to be rewritten for either Windows 7 or 8. Further since their hardware is still working they simply refuse to migrate from XP but they are afraid of getting viruses and malware. Essentially many Microsoft Users are stuck between a rock and hard place.

So I found an excellent User friendly Linux OS that cocoons all versions of Windows: i.e. XP and or 7 inside a very innovative Virtual Machine so that the users data files are saved to a Linux partition while the Windows OS & software is initially backed up and stored in just one .vdi file safely inside the Linux partition,  which contains their original Windows installation with all its programs too. So if they get hit with a morphing virus it takes them only one click to restore their original copy of Windows XP or 7 and of course since their data is always safe inside the Linux partition and fully read writable from the Windows OS with bookmarked folders there is no downtime as it only takes seconds to click on their Robolinux menu option that restores their original perfect Windows Virtual Machine back to the way it was before the virus struck them.

The result is my Clients are saving a lot of money and they are completely immune to all Windows malware and now they have as much time as they need to rewrite their software for either Linux or Windows 7. None of my Clients will even consider Windows 8 as a solution.

Check it out: Google Robolinux.

Just the Facts Mame:

Posted: 2013-11-06 @ 3:45pm PT
According to the story the flaw is also in Office 2010 which is not close to end of life. So the comment, in the story, about this flaw not existing if there was no end of life software is just plain wrong.

Ti99/4A:

Posted: 2013-11-06 @ 3:35pm PT
Office 2003 was the last good Office that Microsoft released. All offices since then have been a right royal PITA.

D:

Posted: 2013-11-06 @ 12:05pm PT
I agree with Chris in the comments. Unless these updates are free not everyone can afford to upgrade to the new versions each time they are released. Agree with Jim too - I work in a med office and the program for one of our cameras will not run under the newer Windows version, it still needs XP.

Joe:

Posted: 2013-11-06 @ 11:49am PT
You think this flaw is just now being exploited and was never used by a hacker before Windows 7 came out? It's called a zero-day for a reason.
If Microsoft had made the software correctly in the first place the "zero-day" would not exist.

chris:

Posted: 2013-11-06 @ 11:17am PT
Here is a thought, how about you pay for us to update to what you think we should have and we will be glad to use the newer software that still has security issues with it.

Jim:

Posted: 2013-11-06 @ 10:59am PT
Moving totally away from Windows XP is not possible for everyone. Visual Studio 6.0 will not run on a newer Windows version. Yet, projects developed under Visual Studio 6.0 still need maintenance from time to time. So we're stuck!



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1.   Patch Tuesday Offers Critical Fixes
2.   China Approves Microsoft-Nokia Deal
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