New security group patches latest IE bug

A new group called Zert has released a patch for Internet Explorer's VML bug.

Microsoft may be waiting until next month to patch a nasty bug in Outlook and Internet Explorer, but security researchers are offering users a more immediate option.

A loose affiliation of security researchers going by the name of ZERT (Zeroday Emergency Response Team) has released a patch for the VML (Vector Markup Language) vulnerability, which increasingly is being exploited by criminals in malware attacks.

Microsoft is scheduled to fix the bug on Oct. 10, the date it has set to release its monthly batch of security updates, but the company is under increasing pressure to release an earlier, "out-of-cycle" patch. On Friday the SANS Internet Storm Center raised its alert level from green to yellow, an indication that attacks are becoming more widespread.

Microsoft has suggested a number of work-arounds to the problem, and the software vendor does not recommend that users install the ZERT patch, released Friday.

"We think it's great that there are people out there working to help protect our customers. But as we've always said, we cannot endorse third party updates," wrote Microsoft Security Response center operations manager Scott Deacon in a blog posting Friday.

Microsoft's suggested work-around can be found here.

Microsoft rigorously tests its patches to try to cut off any problems that the new software might introduce. The ZERT patch has not been widely tested and could introduce new problems when installed, security experts warn.

ZERT plans to continue to release its own patches when particularly critical unpatched flaws begin to pose a "serious risk to the public, the infrastructure of the Internet or both," the group claims in a manifesto, published on its Web site.

"The purpose of ZERT is not to 'crack' products, but rather to 'uncrack' them by averting security vulnerabilities in them before they can be widely exploited," the group says.

ZERT sprang out of discussions on e-mail lists set up a few years ago by security researcher Gadi Evron, said ZERT member Randy Abrams, director of technical education with Eset.

"Microsoft wants to assign a monthly patch and we understand that," said ZERT member Roger Thompson, who is chief technology officer with Atlanta's Exploit Prevention Labs Inc. "There's a certain benefit of staying on the monthly patch, but when things start to pop, as we think this VML thing is, there's a need to do something."

The group's formation was spurred by Microsoft's WMF (Windows Metafile) vulnerability, which emerged in late 2005. Tens of thousands of Microsoft users downloaded third-party patches to fix that bug and Microsoft was eventually forced to release an out-of-cycle patch to address the problem.

"This has been the first real vulnerability [since then] that the members have felt can be patched fairly quickly," Abrams said.

Microsoft clearly does not want its users to get into the habit of installing third-party security patches, so if the ZERT software is widely downloaded, Microsoft may move more quickly with its own VML patch, Abrams said.

"It might force Microsoft's hand on an out-of-cycle patch," he said.

Microsoft's Deacon said that his team has still not seen "widespread" exploitation of the VML bug, but he implied that Microsoft could do an early patch release, if necessary.

"We've become more confident in the past couple of days in our ability to do an out-of-band release," he wrote Friday, in an update to his blog posting.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?