Microsoft starts '08 by patching 3 bugs

Slow start for 2008 but plenty more exploits expected

Microsoft released just two security updates this week that patch three vulnerabilities in Windows, marking the beginning of the bug year with a relatively slow start, said researchers.

Just one of the three flaws is rated "critical," the highest ranking Microsoft uses, while the other two were tagged as "important" and "moderate," the next two steps in the company's four-stage scoring system.

MS08-001, the update that addresses two bugs in a trio of Windows' TCP/IP protocols, was the obvious pick for immediate deployment. "This is a classic kind of IP attack," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Inc. "All an attacker needs is a well-crafted multicast packet."

Amol Sarwate, manager of Qualys' vulnerability lab, agreed. "An attack doesn't require any user intervention," he said, "such as clicking on a link or opening an attachment. An attack only requires remotely sent packets."

The three vulnerable protocols patched by the update include IGMP (Internet Group Management Protocol), MLD (Multicast Listener Discovery) and ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol). The first two are used in over-IP multicasting -- the classic example of that one-to-many technology is a webcast -- while the third, ICMP, is a maintenance protocol that manages more mundane things: network connectivity and routing.

Storms downplayed the threat posed by the bugs patched in MS08-001. "The good news is that many hosts don't have multicast [protocols] enabled, and the firewall blocks [their traffic]. So for any zero-day exploit, default Windows XP and Vista [installations] have already been mitigated." Even so, he recommended that administrators deploy the update as soon as possible.

Sarwate, on the other hand, considered the danger to be more significant. "The protocols can easily be enabled," he said. "Companies may have enabled them on client machines, especially IGMP for group management applications in mixed environments with both Unix and Windows systems."

As reported earlier Tuesday, the MS08-002 bulletin patched a privilege-elevation bug in the LSASS (Local Security Authority Subsystem Service) process within Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003.

Both Storms and Sarwate, however, also remarked on what was not included in Tuesday's batch: a fix for the Web Proxy Autodiscovery (WPAD) bug that Microsoft acknowledged a month ago. The WPAD vulnerability -- actually a flaw in how Windows PCs look up DNS information -- was originally patched in 1999 but resurfaced recently when a researcher pointed out that it had crept back into later versions of the operating system.

"If Microsoft acknowledges an issue, they usually fix it in the next patch cycle," noted Sarwate. "But it's not being addressed. I was sort of hoping it would be fixed in the January releases."

All in all, however, it wasn't a bad way for IT administrators and Windows users to start 2008. In comparison, January 2007 featured four security updates that patched 10 different vulnerabilities. "This is a fairly light load to begin the year," Sarwate said.

"But I think this will be a big year for patches," countered Storms. "Both of these [bulletins] today are well-representing trends. Researchers are looking into the past to see vulnerabilities [they can use] in the future.

"I expect we'll see more [graphics device interface] vulnerabilities in Windows this year, more [Windows Metafile Format] bugs and more file-parsing bugs in 2008," he predicted.

January's patches can be downloaded and installed via the Microsoft Update and Windows Update services, as well as through Windows Server Update Services.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?