Microsoft to kick off 2009 with single security fix

Microsoft will release just one Windows update, rated critical, when it releases its January security fixes next Tuesday.

After being forced to rush out an emergency patch for its Internet Explorer browser last month, Microsoft plans to release just one security update in its first patch release of 2009.

The update will be a critical fix for server and desktop versions of Windows, Microsoft said Thursday. It fixes at least one bug that could allow attackers to install unauthorized software on a victim's computer.

Microsoft did not say which bugs it would be fixing with next week's updates, but the company has several to choose from.

In the past month, Microsoft has warned of flaws in its WordPad Text Converter and SQL Server database software

The researcher who disclosed the SQL Server flaw said recently that Microsoft has known about the issue since April, and had written a patch for it back in September.

One security researcher has also claimed that there is a bug in Microsoft's Windows Media Player, but Microsoft has disputed his findings.

But none of these flaws is in all versions of the underlying Windows operating system, which are being patched next week. According to nCircle Director of Security Operations Andrew Storms, Microsoft could be fixing a known Windows flaw that would allow hackers to gain unauthorized privileges on a computer. "An exploit has already been published for some time along with a whitepaper by the author," Storms said in an instant-message interview.

Microsoft has offered work-arounds for this flaw already, but it has now had enough time to prepare a full-blown security patch, Storms said.

However, the security researcher who found the flaw said he doesn't expect to see it patched next week. "I don't think they will patch my bug because it's rated critical (remote code execution) and my bug is about local elevation of privileges," said Cesar Cerrudo, chief executive of security research firm Argeniss, via instant message.

Local elevation of privilege flaws are not typically considered critical, although Storms said Microsoft may have discovered while fixing the problem that it was more severe than previously thought.

Microsoft's security updates will come nearly a month after the company scrambled to push out an emergency patch for Internet Explorer, after criminals began exploiting the flaw to install password-stealing software on victims' machines.

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