Microsoft issues mega-patch to crush 20 bugs

11 separate security updates for Windows, Office, Internet Explorer (IE), Active Directory and the Host Integration Server.

Microsoft on Tuesday patched 20 vulnerabilities, more than half of them rated critical, in 11 separate security updates for Windows, Office, Internet Explorer (IE), Active Directory and the Host Integration Server.

Also for the first time, the company predicted the likelihood that hackers would come up with exploits for each bug.

"The count's big," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security Inc. Eleven of the 20 flaws were rated "critical," the top ranking in Microsoft's four-level threat scoring system, while eight were pegged as "important," the next step down, and one was listed as only "moderate." Tuesday's update was the largest since August, when Microsoft issued 26 patches in 12 bulletins.

Storms identified two general themes in the latest round of patches. "First, there's still a pervasiveness of client application updates that doesn't seem to be diminishing at all, and second, Microsoft's newer software is still less vulnerable than its older."

On the first point, Storms ticked off updates that addressed three critical vulnerabilities in Excel and six critical bugs in IE , while for the second he listed several security bulletins that tagged Windows 2000 or older editions of Office as vulnerable, but gave newer versions of its operating system or applications either a pass or lowered the threat for users.

"Today's patches really continue to hammer the idea that the newer [Microsoft] software is more secure," said Storms. "If there was ever a reason to update to newer software, this is it. There's no reason not to update, for example, to IE7."

Storms highlighted two other updates that he thought should receive special attention, particularly by enterprise IT professionals. One, spelled out in MS08-060 , affects Active Directory, while the other, MS08-059 , affects Host Integration Server (HIS), a little-known corporate product that connects Windows-based networks to IBM mainframe and AS/400 systems. Microsoft marked both bulletins as critical.

"The attack surface is low for MS08-059, but the potential impact is high because HIS interacts with the critical back-office infrastructure that can't be down," said Storms. Tuesday's patch was the first ever for HIS, a fact that didn't escape Storms. "Now there's an update that will affect administrators who probably wanted nothing to do with Microsoft," he said.

"And there will be a lot of discussion about the Active Directory vulnerability as well as the SMB bug , mainly because these are remote exploits," Storms said. "They're in the classic style, where just some data packets can compromise systems. For that reason, I think they will garner a fair amount of respect, and researchers will probably exploit that."

Microsoft also used Tuesday's updates to launch its "Exploitability Index," a new effort announced in August . The index, which can be found in October's summary , lists each vulnerability along with the company's exploit rating. Microsoft settled on a three-step system that, in descending order of severity, predicts that researchers or hackers will come up with a consistently working exploit, develop an exploit that works only some of the time, or fail to craft attack code at all.

The inaugural index pegged eight of the month's 20 vulnerabilities with "Consistent exploit code likely" label, seven with the "Inconsistent exploit code likely" tag and four with "Functioning exploit code unlikely."

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.

Tags MicrosoftInternet Exploreractivex

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

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

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.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

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.

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?