Microsoft on Tuesday released eight security bulletins to patch vulnerabilities in its software. Three of them are rated critical. The bulletins target 23 bugs across a number of services including Windows, Internet Explorer, and Exchange.
Eight may seem like a high number, but Paul Henry, a security and forensics analyst at Lumension, told us there's good news: Right now, none of the vulnerabilities is under active attack. And although three bulletins are rated critical, two are top priorities.
"MS13-059 is an Internet Explorer issue with 11 vulnerabilities. This bulletin is Microsoft cleaning up the last of the CanSecWest bugs. MS13-60. Your second priority is a vulnerability in the Unicode scripts processor that could allow a remote code execution. This vulnerability is for XP and Windows 2003 customers only and has just one privately reported vulnerability," Henry said.
"The last of the criticals this month, MS13-061 is a vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange that could allow a remote code execution," he added. "It fixes an issue with Oracle Outside In update and has three reported vulnerabilities."
Lamar Bailey, direct of security research and development at TripWire, offers more good news. Although security researchers were worried about the critical Exchange updates, they are not as bad as some feared.
"The Exchange patch incorporates some of the patches that Oracle released in July and August that affect Outlook Web Access," he told us. "While exploitation of these is still fairly low, it's still a critical update."
Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, said the remaining bulletins are of lower severity, and are all rated "important." The most surprising, he noted, is MS13-063, a Windows kernel vulnerability that addresses CVE-2012-2556 as a defense-in-depth measure.
"CVE-2014-2556 was published in March at the security conference CanSecWest in a presentation by the security researcher Yang Yu of NSFocus, and Microsoft believes it could have qualified for one of the high-paying bounties -- up to $100,000 -- of the current BlueHat program," Kandek said. "Alas, at the time, the program did not exist, and Yang Yu had no way of knowing that the program was in the works."
Assessing the Year
Ross Barrett, security analyst at Rapid7, said perhaps the most genuinely interesting vulnerability this month is MS13-062. It is reported as an Elevation of Privilege because it's a post authentication issue in RPC (Remote Procedure Call).
"Microsoft has described this as extremely difficult to exploit," he said, "which I can only assume is a challenge to exploit writers everywhere to prove them wrong."
How does August's Patch Tuesday stack up on the year? So far in 2013, Henry counts 65 Microsoft security bulletins. That's seven more than this time last year.
"At the start of the year, we anticipated higher numbers in 2013 given Microsoft's commitment to cleaning up the low-hanging fruit out there," Henry said. "Last year at this time there were 35 important patches issued. We now see 40. Our criticals in 2013 so far number 25 with 35 in total for 2012. Good news there."