MS slates 8 bug updates for year's final Patch Tuesday

Critical fixes coming for Windows, Office and IE; may finally patch 8-month-old flaw

Microsoft will deliver eight security updates next week, six of them marked "critical," to plug holes in Windows, Internet Explorer, Office and other products.

Two of the eight updates will patch Windows, another two are aimed at Office, while the remaining four target Internet Explorer (IE), SharePoint, Windows Media Player, and Visual Basic and Visual Studio, Microsoft said Thursday in its monthly advance warning of what to expect next Tuesday.

One of the two updates slated for Windows may be a fix, finally, for an eight-month-old vulnerability that Microsoft first acknowledged in April, and which has been exploited by hackers since mid-October, said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security.

"The bulletin Microsoft marked 'Windows 1' looks like the issue in the 951306 advisory," said Storms, referring to the April warning of a rights elevation bug in all versions of Windows. Several weeks before that, Cesar Cerrudo, a researcher and security consultant, said he would disclose a Windows flaw at an upcoming conference; at the time, Microsoft had downplayed the issue, dubbing the problem a "design flaw," not a security bug.

In mid-October, however, Microsoft confirmed that hackers were actively exploiting the unpatched bug.

Overall, said Storms, the patch list for next week looks like a "sampler plate, a smorgasbord if you will, a little of everything."

Wolfgang Kandek, the chief technology officer at Qualys, agreed. "It looks pretty normal, and has the usual suspects," he said, ticking off the bulletins aimed at Office, IE and Windows Media Player, all which have been patched several times this year.

Both Storms and Kandek, however, noted significance of the other Windows update. Dubbed "Windows 2" by Microsoft, it will patch newer versions of the operating system -- Vista and Server 2008 -- but is not applicable to older editions, such as Windows 2000, XP or Server 2003.

Typically, it's the other way around, said Kandek. "Vista and Server 2008 were developed in a different way, with the Security Development Lifecycle, or SDL, process, and there was much more scrutiny on the code."

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