Microsoft preps emergency IE patch for release

Second out-of-cycle update in the last two months is imminent

Microsoft will issue an emergency patch on Wednesday to quash a critical bug in Internet Explorer (IE) that attackers have been exploiting for more than a week, the company announced Tuesday.

The advance warning came less than a week after Microsoft acknowledged that exploit code had gone public and was being used by hackers to hijack Windows PCs running IE.

Microsoft will deliver the out-of-cycle patch Wednesday afternoon (US time) via its normal update mechanisms, including Windows Update, Microsoft Update and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).

The update will be pegged "critical," the most serious ranking in Microsoft's four-step scoring system.

Even as it declared that it would release an emergency fix, Microsoft continued to downplay the threat. "At this time, we are aware only of attacks that attempt to use this vulnerability against Windows Internet Explorer 7," said company spokesman Christopher Budd in an e-mail Tuesday.

Initially, Microsoft and other security companies believed that only IE7 was vulnerable to attack, but on review, the company confirmed that all versions of its browser, including IE5.01, IE6 and IE8 Beta 2, contain the bug.

Last weekend, Microsoft researchers said that they had seen a "huge increase" in attacks, and that some were originating from legitimate Web sites. Another researcher added that about 6,000 infected sites were serving up exploits that target the IE vulnerability.

Also today, Microsoft confirmed that attacks could be launched through Outlook Express, a free e-mail client bundled with Windows XP. Because Outlook Express renders HTML-based messages using IE's engine, attackers could exploit the bug by getting users to open or view malicious messages.

This will be the second out-of-cycle patch from Microsoft in the last two months. In late October, it issued an emergency fix for a critical vulnerability in the Windows Server service; like IE's bug, that one had been actively exploited before Microsoft was able to come up with a patch.

According to Tuesday's advance notification, Microsoft will provide patches to users of Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008 for IE5.01, IE6 and IE7. A separate patch will apparently be issued tomorrow for IE8 Beta 2, a preview version of Microsoft's next browser that is not officially on the support list.

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 Internet Explorermicrosoft patches

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

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?