Microsoft Patch Fest Includes Duqu Vulnerability

Security patches next week should address multiple critical vulnerabilities. Adobe will fix a Reader flaw being actively exploited to attack defense firms.

Mathew J. Schwartz, Contributor

December 9, 2011

3 Min Read

10 Massive Security Breaches

10 Massive Security Breaches

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Microsoft next week plans to issue a bumper crop of patches, comprising 14 security bulletins and 20 bug fixes. Meanwhile, Adobe has promised an update to Adobe Reader 9.x that will patch a zero-day vulnerability currently being exploited by attackers.

Of the Microsoft security bulletins planned for the coming Patch Tuesday, three are critical security updates involving Windows XP and Vista, while one also affects Windows 7. Windows Server 2003 will also see three critical fixes, while Windows Server 2008 will get one.

Five less severe fixes will be issued for bugs in Microsoft Office 2003, 2007, and 2010, across both PC and Mac. Meanwhile, one fix will patch vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer versions 6 to 9. The other updates apply to all versions of Windows.

[ Good security requires planning. Read How To Spot Malicious Insiders Before Data Theft. ]

One of the critical vulnerabilities to be patched appears to be the TrueType font parsing vulnerability in the Windows kernel that was exploited by Duqu to facilitate remote code execution, and which Microsoft acknowledged in a security advisory last month.

"The main reason I think this is the Duqu zero-day patch is that the bulletin requires a restart, which indicates it's a kernel-level bug that is being patched, and it affects all the same operating systems as in the previous advisory," said Marcus Carey, a security researcher at Rapid7, via email.

Next week, Adobe will also issue an out-of-band patch (the next regularly scheduled quarterly update won't happen until January 2012) for Adobe Reader 9.x on Windows. The patch will fix a vulnerability that's currently being exploited in targeted attacks. According to Symantec, these attacks predominantly target defense contractors, telecommunications firms, computer hardware manufacturers, government agencies, as well as organizations in the energy and chemical sectors.

"These attacks are part of a long-running series of attacks using the Sykipot family of malware," according to an Adobe blog post. "Sykipot has been used in targeted attacks for at least the past couple of years, and unconfirmed traces date back to as early as 2006." The attacks that are exploiting this vulnerability send either a link or a malicious PDF document with JavaScript to the intended target.

A teardown of one of the malicious PDFs by security researcher Brandon Dixon of B9Plus found that the PDF crashed Reader 9.4.6, then opened a new document. "This new document is a survey geared towards defense contractor ManTech," he said. At that point, however, the malicious PDF begins "dropping" (copying) malicious executables onto the PC, and using the registry to alter their names, as well as dropping a temporary file which Dixon suspects is really a malicious dynamic-link library (.dll) file, which could be used to send information about the PC to a control server as well as download further malicious files.

At-risk organizations may not want to wait for a Reader 9.x patch. "Alternatively (and better IMHO) you could update your users to Adobe Reader X, which while it contains the vulnerability, cannot be successfully exploited due to its sandboxing features," said Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, in a blog post.

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About the Author(s)

Mathew J. Schwartz


Mathew Schwartz served as the InformationWeek information security reporter from 2010 until mid-2014.

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