Microsoft issues seven security bulletins, two 'critical'

An attacker could gain remote control of machines and cause trouble using a host of security holes Microsoft outlined in seven advisories.

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An attacker could gain remote control of machines and cause trouble using a variety of security holes Microsoft outlined in seven bulletins yesterday. The software giant said two of them are "critical" and affect several popular products. Information security experts urge people to install the patches immediately.

"My advice to users is to install all the patches and do it early," said David Perry, global director of education for Cupertino, Calif.-based IT security firm Trend Micro Inc. "The critical updates look to be the most serious. But there are a lot of deep security issues in these bulletins and you can never tell which vulnerability someone will choose to exploit. You could patch the critical ones and then the attack could come through the vulnerabilities considered the least serious."

MS04-022 fixes a "critical" vulnerability in Windows Task Scheduler caused by an unchecked buffer.

"If a user is logged on with administrative privileges, an attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system, including installing programs; viewing, changing, or deleting data; or creating new accounts with full privileges," the advisory said. "However, user interaction is required to exploit this vulnerability. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer privileges on the system would be at less risk than users who operate with administrative privileges." Affected components are Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 when installed on Windows NT 4.0 SP6a (Workstation, Server, or Terminal Server Edition). The following software is affected:

  • Windows 2000 Service Packs 2 through 4
  • Windows XP and XP Service Pack 1
  • Windows XP 64-Bit Edition Service Pack 1

MS04-023 fixes a vulnerability in HTML Help that occurs because the program does not completely validate input data. If a user is logged on with administrative privileges, an attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take control of affected machines. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer privileges on the system would be at less risk than users who operate with administrative privileges, the advisory said. Affected components are the same as the threat in MS04-022. The following software and server programs are affected:

  • Windows 2000 Service Packs 2 through 4
  • Windows XP and XP Service Pack 1
  • Windows XP 64-Bit Edition Service Pack 1
  • Windows XP 64-Bit Edition Version 2003
  • Windows Server 2003
  • Windows Server 2003 64-Bit Edition
  • Windows 98, 98 Second Edition (SE), and Millennium Edition

"These are very critical vulnerabilities and users should install the updates as soon as possible," said Oliver Friedrichs, senior manager of security response for Symantec. "We've seen widespread attacks within weeks of past bulletins for similar flaws. It took only 17 days for Sasser to follow a bulletin. These updates are easy, and there's really no reason to put them off."

Of the five remaining bulletins, four were rated as important and one as moderate.

MS04-019 is rated "important" and resolves a privilege elevation vulnerability that exists in the way Utility Manager launches applications. A logged-on user could force Utility Manager to start an application with system privileges and could take complete control of the system.

MS04-020 describes an "important" privilege elevation vulnerability in the POSIX operating system component an attacker could use to take over a machine.

MS04-021 addresses an "important" a buffer overrun vulnerability in Internet Information Server 4.0 that could allow remote code execution on an affected system.

MS04-024 fixes an "important" remote code execution vulnerability in how the Windows Shell launches applications.

MS04-018 fixes a "moderate" denial-of-service vulnerability in Outlook Express caused by a lack of robust verification for malformed e-mail headers. If a user running Outlook Express receives a specially crafted e-mail message, the program fails. If the preview pane is enabled, the user must manually remove the message, and then restart Outlook Express to resume functionality. This update also changes the default security settings for Outlook Express 5.5 Service Pack 2.

This article originally appeared on SearchSecurity.com.

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