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|Microsoft Releases Critical Internet Explorer Patch|
The out-of-band security update fixes a
through hacked Web sites.
"At this time, we are aware only of attacks that attempt to use this vulnerability against Windows Internet Explorer 7," said Christopher Budd, Microsoft security response communications lead, in an e-mailed statement. "Our investigation of these attacks so far has verified that they are not successful against customers who have applied the security update. MS08-078 has a maximum severity rating of Critical for all versions of Internet Explorer."
Microsoft typically releases software patches, referred to as Security Bulletins, on the second Tuesday of every month. When critical vulnerabilities emerge and are actively exploited, Microsoft often issues a patch as soon as it's ready.
The last such out-of-band patch, Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-067, was released on Oct. 23. It addressed a vulnerability in Windows Server service that affected all currently supported versions of Windows. That vulnerability allowed an attacker to take over affected computers remotely.
When Microsoft issued its out-of-band patch in October, it cited the vulnerability's potential "wormability" -- meaning the hole could be exploited on a massive scale using self-copying malware -- as a reason for its action.
But MS08-078 isn't wormable. "[That] shows that the wormability of a vulnerability is no longer a good indicator of the seriousness of a threat and that these Web-based threats are now much more dangerous than network worms," said Roel Schouwenberg, senior antivirus researcher for Kaspersky Lab, Americas, in an e-mailed statement.
Indeed, Microsoft security researchers estimated that as many as 1 in 500 users of Internet Explorer could have been exposed to malware attempting to exploit the flaw.
"The browser flaw had been disclosed roughly one week ago as a zero-day vulnerability, and active exploits have been around the Internet for that timeframe as well," Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek said in an e-mailed statement. "The workarounds provided by Microsoft were very technical and quite cumbersome to implement, making it imperative for Microsoft to release a fix as quickly as possible."
Kandek suggests that Microsoft is at a disadvantage in updating Internet Explorer because its browser doesn't have a built-in update mechanism like other browser makers. Mozilla, for instance, just released Firefox 3.05 to Firefox users through its auto-update system.Microsoft is urging users of IE to test and deploy this update as soon as possible.
|IBM: Conficker infected 4% of world’s PCs|
|IBM is the second company in two days to suggest that the number of computers infected by the Conficker.C worm may be higher than previously thought. After scanning 2 million computers over the past 24 hours, IBM’s Internet Security Systems (ISS) division said Thursday that it had spotted the worm on 4 percent of the IP addresses it monitored. Although Conficker is clearly the worst worm outbreak in years, the results came as a surprise, according to Holly Stewart, a threat response manager with ISS. “It is higher than what we expected; I thought we’d see 1 to 2 percent,” Stewart said. Late last week, IBM researchers reverse-engineered Conficker and figured out a way to track infections by measuring peer-to-peer traffic on the network. They used that technique to reach their estimate. “The Conficker worm is going to change its operation a bit, but that’s unlikely to cause anything visible on 1 April,” F-Secure said. The company also noted that only the latest version of the malware, known as ‘Conficker C’, which constitutes a small percentage of total infections, would be carrying out any instructions on 1 April. “The truth is that Conficker is not set to activate a specific payload on 1 April. Rather, Conficker will begin to attempt to contact the 50,000-a-day potential call-home web servers from which it may receive updates.” Malware creation has evolved into a lucrative business since Melissa, and most experts believe that Conficker’s update will be the first step in a spam run or other money-making activity, rather than an old-fashioned attempt at internet mayhem. “The people behind this piece of code are very skilled, very well informed and resourced. They have invested much time and effort in the creation of this botnet, and will be aiming to see some return on that investment,” wrote Trend Micro senior security advisor Rik Ferguson in a blog post.|