Redmond on Tuesday released seven security bulletins and updates to tackle a whopping 66 vulnerabilities in its software. Two of the bulletins are rated critical and five are rated important. The good news is one patch -- MS14-035 -- fixes 59 flaws in Internet Explorer.
The big news, of course, is the IE cumulative update. Although Microsoft's June’s Patch Tuesday goes well beyond IE, security researchers agree that this patch should be the top priority in June.
We caught up with Russ Ernst, Director of Product Management at security software firm Lumension, to get his take on the IE issue. He reminded us that in May IE saw plenty of activity, first with the out-of-band patch -- an issue fix released as part of May’s Patch Tuesday -- and a vulnerability that was publicly disclosed by the Zero-Day Initiative (ZDI) on May 21.
“This cumulative update includes a fix for the ZDI reported vulnerability and one other publicly reported vulnerability,” Ernst said. “The ZDI reported vulnerability had a limited attack surface -- impacting IE 8 only -- and since it was publicly reported, there are no known active attacks. In fact, none of the vulnerabilities in this month’s release are under active attack, including these two publicly reported vulnerabilities.”
Beyond the IE Jumbo Patch
Craig Young, security expert at security software firm Tripwire, told us ZDI advisory has given attackers a head start understanding this vulnerability, possibly reducing the time required for researchers to reverse engineer the fix and devise exploit code. But there are issues beyond IE to worry about. MS14-031 is a vulnerability in the TCP (transmission control protocol) that could allow denial of service in Windows Vista and newer Windows operating systems.
“In another blast from the past, Microsoft has updated the TCP stack to account for a resource exhaustion attack somewhat reminiscent of the Sockstress. This vulnerability allows attackers to establish TCP connections with maliciously crafted window sizes leading to service unavailability,” he said. “This is a particularly serious vulnerability because it can be exploited by a remote attacker with the goal of taking down a specific service or potentially taking a server completely offline.”
Young also pointed to MS14-033, which is an disclosure vulnerability in XML Core Services. He said the embedded font issue affecting certain Office products is interesting because this is one of the few issues of these types that affect the newer, open XML format rather than being limited to the legacy binary format.
“In the past Microsoft has advised users to disable the binary format as a mitigation for attacks against this format,” Young said. “Unfortunately, in this case, disabling the binary format does not prevent exploitation.”
Research Leads to Patches
Tyler Reguly, manager of security research at Tripwire, found the patch for Remote Desktop interesting. MS14-030 is a vulnerability in Remote Desktop that could allow tampering in legacy versions of Windows RDP (remote desktop protocol).
“A flaw in RDP could allow attackers in position to perform a man-in-the-middle to modify RDP content,” he told us. “This is the first server-side Remote Desktop vulnerability released since 2012 and the first one ever released for Windows 8 and it was discovered and reported by Tripwire. While it's not the most critical vulnerability fixed this month, it's nice to see your research lead to patches that are delivered to customers.”