Risk
9/12/2013
02:37 PM
50%
50%

Microsoft Nukes Buggy Office 2013 Update

Second batch of faulty software from Microsoft in two months reinforces recommendation to patch in staggered fashion.

10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
10 Hidden Benefits of Windows 8.1
(click image for larger view)
For the second time in two months, Microsoft has temporarily pulled a software update after users reported that it inadvertently disabled some Windows features.

Microsoft Wednesday removed its Office Update 2013 (KB2817630), which was released Tuesday as part of the company's regularly monthly release of patches. The update contained user interface changes, as well as stability and performance improvements for both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Office 2013 and Office Home and Student 2013 RT.

But soon after the update was released, users began reporting difficulties. "I've got Microsoft Office 2013 Professional Plus running on Windows 8 Professional. I just applied today's Microsoft updates, and now that I've done so, the Outlook 'Folder Pane' is empty," one Windows user posted to a Microsoft help forum Tuesday. "I can't view my list of e-mail accounts, folders, favorites, etc."

More reports of frozen Outlook navigation panes soon surfaced, leading Microsoft to pull the patch Wednesday from its Windows Update servers.

[ Microsoft is overhauling its leadership structure. What does it mean? See Microsoft's Journey May Leave Too Many Behind. ]

Later Wednesday, Microsoft confirmed the problem, saying in a blog post that it stemmed from incompatible versions of outlook.exe and mso.dll being on the same system. In particular, "a mismatched reference to a data structure causes the 'minimize' button in the navigation pane to render incorrectly, typically extremely large to the point that the navigation pane is 'invisible' to the user," it said.

Microsoft also noted that, contrary to some press reports, the buggy Office 2013 update had nothing to do with a critical security update for Microsoft Outlook (MS13-068), released Tuesday, that patched a remote code execution vulnerability, but only in the 2007 and 2010 versions of Microsoft Office. Accordingly, "we continue to recommend [this] as a high priority security update," said Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, in a blog post.

The bad Office 2013 update followed Microsoft last month pulling an August security update for Exchange Server 2013 (MS13-061) that scrambled search infrastructure settings, thus "placing the content index for all databases into a failed state," according to a Microsoft advisory. About two weeks after removing the patch, Microsoft released a related fix for both Exchange 2013 RTM CU1 and Exchange 2013 RTM CU2.

While Microsoft said it thoroughly tested both of the buggy patches, the double dose of bad code -- one a user interface bug, the other a bad security update -- "underscores the complexity of our current IT environment," said Kandek.

The solution, he said, is to nominate some guinea pigs. "IT administrators at many organizations that we interact with counter this with a 1%, 10%, 100% mechanism, meaning they apply these patches to 1% of the user base on the first day, 10% on the second day -- barring problems -- and going for 100% starting on the third day," he said. "The ultimate goal is to have security patches distributed to all machines by the fifth day." Patch managers would typically also pursue different schedules: one in the short term for critical security updates, for example, and one later for "product enhancement patches" such as this month's Office 2013 update, which contained no security fixes.

Going forward, what might be done to prevent such patch incompatibility problems altogether? "Ultimately I believe that reducing the complexity on the desktop and using more online services for our daily needs is the direction that we are headed," Kandek said.

Learn more about enterprise software by attending the Interop conference track on Applications and Collaboration in New York from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: just wondering...Thanx
Current Issue
Security Operations and IT Operations: Finding the Path to Collaboration
A wide gulf has emerged between SOC and NOC teams that's keeping both of them from assuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of IT systems. Here's how experts think it should be bridged.
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.