Microsoft announced on Feb. 10, as part of its regular monthly patch
schedule, a major security hole affecting Windows NT, 2000, XP, and to some
extent 2003. Experts are calling the new problem a more dangerous
threat to PCs than other virus epidemics such as Code Red.
since the ones that
I discussed in the
paid version of Brian’s Buzz. For this reason, I have no alerts to tell you
about in today’s issue. The next expected release of bulletins
from Microsoft will be on Feb. 10 and will be analyzed in the Feb. 12
Microsoft had planned to terminate all technical support for Windows 98
on Jan. 16, 2004, and support for
Windows Me on Dec. 31, 2004. But an outcry from users, especially in
developing countries where most people don’t upgrade their software as
quickly, led Microsoft into a rare change of heart.
Reuters reports that 20% of all Windows-based PCs worldwide run
Windows 98 or the even older Windows 95.
By laying out a linked series of six simple hacker techniques, a
volunteer researcher has shown that a Trojan horse
program can be deposited and run on a PC if a user merely views
a Web page in Internet Explorer 6 – even with all of Microsoft’s
latest service packs and security patches installed.
In keeping with its new policy of trying to release new security patches
only once a month instead of weekly (as I described in a
special report in the Nov.
6 paid version of Brian’s Buzz), Microsoft on Nov. 11
released two Windows patches rated “critical” and one rated “important.”
Microsoft has made what I consider the most significant changes in
its security-bulletin release policy since the beginning of security
bulletins. Instead of sending out Windows patches every week, as has
until recently been the case, the Redmond software giant now plans to
circulate new patches only once a month, on the 2nd Tuesday of each
month. (If a worm is running loose “in the wild,” Microsoft says it will
release a special patch immediately.)
I don’t ordinarily bore you with the details of every bulletin Microsoft
puts out. But in this case, it’s important for you to know about not one,
but four new security patches that Microsoft rated “critical” and
released on Oct. 15.
Microsoft posted an official notice on Sept. 18 anouncing the “Swen”
e-mail worm, also known as W32/Swen@MM. As I described earlier in this
newsletter in the Top Story section, above, this worm is one of a series
that has tricked intelligent Windows users into running an
infected e-mail attachment because the message body looks so much
like genuine, Microsoft-branded information.
This month has been an exceptionally heavy period for serious new Microsoft
warnings of holes and patches to close them, as you can see from the three
examples highlighted in the “other bulletins” section below. But the most
alarming news is that there’s another example of the same kind of hole
that produced the devastating Blaster worm this summer.
The top alert that I think you need to know about this week isn’t from
Microsoft, it’s from RealNetworks. Versions of the company’s RealOne Player,
RealOne Enterprise Desktop, and RealOne Desktop Manager, if unpatched,
allow a malicious person to run code on a user’s PC if the user plays
an audio SMIL file.