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Beyond Windows XP, Microsoft's Patch Tuesday Offers Critical Fixes

Beyond Windows XP, Microsoft's Patch Tuesday Offers Critical Fixes
By Jennifer LeClaire

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Just like any other Patch Tuesday, the best move is to patch Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer as soon as possible. Even though IT security teams are focused on dealing with the Heartbleed bug, they have to ensure that they don't forget about Microsoft this Patch Tuesday, said Tyler Reguly, security research manager at security firm Tripwire.
 


It’s the fourth Patch Tuesday of 2014 -- but it’s the last for Windows XP and Office 2003. Microsoft released four patches on Tuesday. Two are rated critical and two are important. Altogether, the patches cover a mere 11 vulnerabilities.

Microsoft is urging XP users to migrate to a newer version of the Windows operating system, and most security researchers are echoing the urgency even in the face of workarounds that would allow enterprises to hang on a little while longer.

According to Trustwave, although third-party party security solutions like antivirus will help protect XP users for the near future, there’s no denying that those who continue to use XP will be at a much greater risk of compromise.

“Windows XP is old, almost ancient in technology years. Modern Windows operating systems like Windows 7 or 8 provide security features like Drive Encryption, User Account Control, AppLocker, UEFI Secure Boot and Trusted Boot,” the company warned. in a blog post. “Windows XP is not being retired because MS wants to blackmail people into upgrading. It’s being retired because it is obsolete and Microsoft has given the public ample opportunity to do what is in their own best interest. It’s now time to close the lid on XP.”

The Heartbleed Tie-In

We caught up with Tyler Reguly, security research manager at security solutions firm Tripwire, to get his thoughts on the last Patch Tuesday for Windows XP. He told us, just like any other Patch Tuesday, the best move is to patch Word and IE as soon as possible.

“The Microsoft Security and Defense blog states that the limited distribution of Publisher will act as a natural limiter, preventing wide spread exploitation,” he said. “I wonder if the introduction of the new Office 365 Home Premium subscription, which will give home users access to Publisher on every system, could potentially change that line of thinking going forward?”

Given the announcement of Heartbleed, Reguly said people have to assume that the “standardized” nature of today's Microsoft patches will move them to the back of the minds of IT security teams as they scramble to patch vulnerable OpenSSL implementations. This makes sense when you look at the criticality of the vulnerabilities, but people need to ensure that Microsoft isn't forgotten, he concluded.

Blocking Attack Vectors

Craig Young, security researcher at TripWire, told us the top priority for most administrators will be to apply MS14-017 to fix CVE-2014-1761, the Word vulnerability, because it’s currently being exploited in the wild.

Much the same, the IE fix, MS14-018, should also be treated with high priority because attackers have become very adept at quickly creating IE exploits by reversing patches, he said.

“Microsoft has blocked off a potential attack vector with MS14-019, which could allow context-dependent attackers to execute attacker-controlled code within poorly implemented programs,” Young said. “Similar to DLL preloading, this attack vector relies on a process loading executable code from an untrusted path.”
 

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