Microsoft issues emergency Windows patch

.ani patch released a week ahead of schedule

With attackers finding more ways to exploit a critical flaw in its Windows operating system, Microsoft has published an emergency software patch.

The update fixes seven separate Windows vulnerabilities, but security experts are most concerned about a bug in the way Windows processes .ani Animated Cursor files. Online criminals have been exploiting this bug since late last week.

This is the only one of the seven vulnerabilities rated "critical" by Microsoft.

Microsoft was forced to release the early update a week ahead of schedule because attacks had become too widespread, director of malicious code intelligence with iDefense, Ken Dunham, said. "We have over 400 different URLs identified and related to attacks, and multiple emails have been sent out that direct people back there," he said. "We have proof that organised groups are now launching attacks."

The .ani attack vector would probably be one of the most prevalent and persistent types of attacks over the next months and years, he said.

Exploit code for the flaw had now been added to the widely used Metasploit hacking tool, and there were automated malicious website generation tools available, he said.

This is the third such "out-of-band" patch release Microsoft has made since January 2006. While attacks based on this .ani flaw are still considered limited, exploitation of the bug is following trends similar to the Windows Metafile (WMF) and Vector Markup Language (VML) vulnerabilities that were patched in the other two updates, according to director of Microsoft's Security Response Center, Mark Miller.

Microsoft had seen only Web-based exploitation of the .ani flaw, Miller said. "There have been some indications that email has been used, but we haven't seen anything on that front."

It was first notified of the flaw in December 2006 by security vendor, Determina.

Earlier this week, a Determina executive said Microsoft would have been better off issuing a patch for the .ani flaw sooner, rather than waiting for the April update and forcing customers to rush an emergency fix. "The customers are now going to incur the same cost as they would before, except that they are going to have to do this in panic," Determina's vice-president of marketing, Nand Mulchandani, said. "I have no idea why they didn't do this earlier."

Miller defended Microsoft's decision. He said that because the .ani flaw could affect other applications it required a great deal of testing. "The amount of time taken to patch was appropriate given the level of quality we were trying to release with," Miller said.

Windows users are strongly encouraged to install the patch, because the .ani flaw can be used to exploit computers running virtually any version of Windows, including Vista, even if they are running non-Microsoft browsers like Firefox and Opera, Mulchandani said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
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

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?