Microsoft Plays Patch Catch-Up

IE among headliners on patch Tuesday.

Microsofts patch on Sept. 12 brought three bulletins covering three software flaws, but the day will be remembered most for an Internet Explorer mega-patch that was re-rereleased to address a 10th vulnerability that was missed by the software maker.

Just weeks after reissuing the cumulative browser update amid a round of verbal jousting with a private security research company, Microsoft has again refreshed the patch to cover another code execution bug that could cause PC takeover attacks.

The flaw, which exists in the way IE handles long URLs when visiting Web sites using HTTP 1.1 protocol and compression, was flagged by eEye Digital Security, the same company that had its name zapped from the flaw credits when the update shipped for a second time on Aug. 24. "We found another problem that they missed, even with the re-release," said Marc Maiffret, chief hacking officer at eEye, in Aliso Viejo, Calif.

The IE update episode underscores the challenges Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., faces in shipping patches for multiple browser and operating system versions.

The September batch of updates also included a "critical" bulletin with fixes for a flaw in Microsoft Publisher, a program in the Office suite that allows users to create, customize and publish materials such as newsletters, brochures, fliers, catalogs and Web sites.

The Microsoft Publisher update—MS06-054—patches the 25th flaw found in a Microsoft Office application in 2006. By comparison, for all of 2005, Microsoft shipped patches for only five flaws affecting all versions of Office.

The company warned that an attacker could exploit the Publisher vulnerability using malformed strings in a specially created file.

The Patch Tuesday bulletin also includes MS06-052, an "important" fix for a flaw in PGM (Pragmatic General Multicast), the protocol used in Windows to enable receivers to detect loss or request retransmission of lost data. The bug affects Windows XP Service Pack 1 and Service Pack 2 and could be exploited by an attacker to gain complete control of an affected system.

A cross-site scripting flaw in the Windows Indexing Service is also fixed, with the MS06-053 update. Microsoft rated the issue as "moderate" and warned that an attacker could run a client-side script on behalf of a user to spoof content or disclose information.