Thursday, September 14, 2006

Patch Tuesday Remainders

** Cross-posted from eWEEK **

I've cobbled together a few leftovers from Microsoft's Patch Tuesday that are worth noting separately:

** If the updated MS06-042 bulletin includes a patch for a brand new, previously undiscovered vulnerability, why is it being re-re-released? Shouldn't this have been rolled out as a fresh IE update? eEye's Ross Brown sums it up perfectly:

Badly-mangled patches are rare, having a patch for a badly-mangled patch is extremely rare. Because of this, the onus is even higher on Microsoft to practice the vendor version of responsible disclosure -- don't bury the details, but actually speak with a loud, clear voice -- "Guys, this isn't a re-release of the update you already have, this is a new release you need to apply immediately"

** The Microsoft Publisher flaw covered in the MS06-054 update was originally discovered and reported to Microsoft on 3/8/2005. It took the company 1 year, 1 month, 6 days (402 days) to provide a fix.

** It was interesting to see that Computer Terrorism, the British hacking group that exposed Microsoft's inability to properly diagnose a flaw warning in Nov. 2005, is now working "responsibly" with software vendors. The group held its tongue for 402 days on the high-risk Publisher flaw and also worked closely with Adobe on the critical Flash patch that was also released alongside the Microsoft updates.

** It took Adobe 4 months (123 days) to push the Flash fix out the door. Computer Terrorism says a reliable multi-platform/multi-browser Web-based proof-of-concept was created and shared with the vendor.

** There are at least three publicly-known, high-risk flaws in Microsoft Office products that will remain unpatched for at least another 30 days. The most recent MS Word vulnerability, Microsoft confirms is being used in zero-day attacks was not addressed. Patches for two separate high-risk Excel vulnerabilities, known to Microsoft since at least July 2006 were also not fixed.

** The vulnerability covered in the MS Publisher bulletin is the 25th Office flaw fixed this year. That's not counting the silently fixed bugs that Microsoft admits it doesn't tell us about. By comparison, for all of 2005, the company only released fixes for five vulnerabilities. As an aside, a quick peek at the flaw credits in the barrage of Office bulletins has conspiracy theorists wondering whether Microsoft's decision to share the Windows source code with China is linked to the uptick of flaw warnings from the Far East.

** While we're counting, McAfee's Monty Ijzerman points out in an e-mail that Microsoft has already patched more critical vulnerabilities this year than they patched in 2004 and 2005 combined.

** Lastly, did Apple deliberately sneak out its critical QuickTime patch to hide behind Microsoft's Patch Day and the media glare of its more sexy iTunes/iTV/iPod announcements? This is a question I've asked before.