Microsoft plans critical update to Windows Server next week

Also slates fixes for PowerPoint, and will debut modified exploitability index

Microsoft today said it will patch a critical bug in its Windows server software and two other vulnerabilities in PowerPoint, the presentation maker bundled with Office.

After April's record-setting Patch Tuesday -- which fixed 64 flaws -- May's much lighter load was not surprising. Microsoft habitually takes an even-odd approach, with even-numbered months featuring fewer updates.

Of the two updates slated to ship May 10, Microsoft has classified one as "critical," the highest threat ranking in its four-step score, and the other as "important," the next-most serious.

The critical update will patch Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2, the three still-supported editions of its server operating system.

The vulnerability exists even in the newest version, Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1). Windows desktop operating systems, including Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, are not affected, however.

Without more information, it's impossible to tell what server component Microsoft will patch, said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security. "It's definitely a [reading of the] tea leaves," said Storms. "It could be an Active Directory component, or the DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) component."

Because the bug planned for patching exists on servers running Windows, Storms said that network administrators would likely require a day, perhaps two, additional time to test the fix before applying it.

The other bulletin applies to Office XP, Office 2003 and Office 2007, Microsoft said in its typically bare-bones advance notification today. The company specifically called out PowerPoint as the Office application that will receive a fix. Also slated for patching: Office 2004 for Mac and Office 208 for Mac.

Next week's patch for Office XP's edition of PowerPoint will be one of its last: That 10-year-old suite will not receive security updates after July 12 .

The newest versions -- Office 2010 on Windows and Office 2011 for Mac -- are immune to the PowerPoint bugs.

Storms put his bet on a file format flaw. "I'm not surprised that it's PowerPoint, that it's probably a file format vulnerability," he said. "We shouldn't be surprised that more PowerPoint bugs are appearing as attackers shift their focus away from Word and Excel to PowerPoint."

Microsoft patched three PowerPoint vulnerabilities last month, and two in November 2010 .

Alongside the advanced warning, Microsoft also announced it would debut a changed exploitability index on Tuesday. The index, which debuted in October 2008, is a rating system that forecasts the likelihood a vulnerability will be exploited in the coming month.

Starting next week, the index will separate the most recent editions of its software from older versions.

One column in the index will show the ratings for Windows 7, Office 2010, Server 2008 R2 and the like; the other will post exploitability scores for older software.

Microsoft argued that change "makes it easier for customers on recent platforms to determine their risk, given the extra security mitigations and features built in to Microsoft's newest products."

Storms agreed -- up to a point. "They clearly want to show that their newer software is the least risky," he said, discerning some marketing behind the move.

"And I think that this could be confusing to some people," Storms added, citing the requirement for many enterprises to have to check two scoreboards, not just one.

In a detailed blog post on the exploitability index change, Maarten Van Horenbeeck, a senior security program manager at Microsoft, cited statistics to back up the company's assertion that its newer software is more secure.

Of the 256 exploitability ratings Microsoft has given in the last eight months, 97 were less serious or not applicable on the latest version of the affected product. "In contrast, only seven cases affected the most recent product version and not the older platforms," he said.

Microsoft publishes the exploitability index as part of its month security update summary. Next week's will be posted here.

The two updates will be released at approximately 1 p.m. ET on May 10.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

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

Tags MicrosoftsecurityWindowssoftwareoperating systems

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

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

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

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

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?