Microsoft patches 8 critical bugs in Windows, Office

Flaws in core graphics system, return of protocol handler bugs mark month's fixes

Although MS08-052 is the most important of the four, Storms didn't see it as any more difficult to handle than a run-of-the-mill update, at least for users and administrators. "But I think there was a high level of difficulty for Microsoft, and think they had to put a fair amount of research into this. They knew it was in the operating system, but they probably weren't sure how many other applications were affected."

To make his point, Storms noted the broad array of Microsoft software that is patched by the MS08-052 update, including Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, .Net Framework, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Visio, SQL Server and Visual Studio.

Of the remaining three updates, which patch one vulnerability each, Storms considered MS08-053 and MS08-054 as far less important. The two updates address bugs in Windows Media Encoder, a free Microsoft tool for converting audio and video to the Windows Media formats, or capturing live content; and in Windows Media Player 11, respectively.

"I don't find either of them highly important, because they're not going to be easy to exploit," Storms said.

MS08-055, which patches a protocol handler vulnerability in Microsoft Office -- specifically the OneNote protocol handler "onenote://" -- is another matter. "At least it's not a file format problem," said Storms, "but didn't Microsoft already learn about protocol handlers last year? They were a pretty big deal then, so why didn't they go back and look at [possible vulnerabilities] in other areas?"

Microsoft looks even more careless, Storms continued, because the vulnerability was spotted by an outside researchers, Brett Moore of Insomnia Security, rather than being reported internally.

Last year, Microsoft refused to fix Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) protocol handler vulnerabilities in Windows XP and Server 2003 for months, arguing that it was the fault of other software, not its own. In October, however, Microsoft owned up to the flaws -- which by then were being exploited by attackers -- and patched them the following month.

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

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