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1. In Focus: Does the Patch Development Process Need a Patch?
2. Security News and Features
- Recent Security Vulnerabilities
- Windows Metafile Vulnerability: From Bad to Worse
- Microsoft Releases WMF Vulnerability Patch
- Three More WMF Vulnerabilities Discovered
- CERT's Year-End Vulnerability Summary
3. Security Toolkit
- Security Matters Blog
4. New and Improved
- Centrally Enforce Endpoint Security
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==== 1. In Focus: Does the Patch Development Process Need a Patch? ====
by Mark Joseph Edwards, News Editor, mark at ntsecurity / net
Last Thursday, Microsoft released a patch to correct a problem with Windows Metafile Format (WMF) files. There's been plenty of speculation as to just how bad the problem might actually be on unpatched systems.
Some prominent individuals accused others of exaggerating the risks. I think the real sticking points for those who expressed extreme concern about the dangers were that the vulnerability affects a vast number of systems--nearly every Windows system in use today--and that the vulnerability is very easy to exploit. Fortunately for everyone, the WMF vulnerability isn't something that can be directly exploited via a worm. Exploits must rely on some amount of user interaction or other vulnerabilities to propagate.
One interesting aspect of the ordeal to date is how quickly Microsoft produced a comprehensive patch. The company said that the patch had to be tested on many different systems running various Windows versions in 23 languages. Microsoft also said that the turnaround time of basically two weeks was a company record for the production of a comprehensive (i.e., not temporary) security patch.
In many cases, Microsoft has taken many months to release a patch after a security problem has been reported to the company. It's not unusual for problems to remain unpatched for the better part of a year. If Microsoft could produce the WMF patch so quickly, why can't the company produce all security patches in such an expedited manner?
Some security problems are more difficult to correct than others. In difficult cases, the engineering involved is complex and could require a lot of time. People have pointed out that turnaround time on patches also appears to involve other factors, such as the number of systems affected and the severity of risk as judged by Microsoft.
Some state that they'd rather have a stable patch than a faulty patch. But when the timetable slips beyond what the vulnerability discoverer thinks is reasonable, then he or she might eventually publish the exploit "in the interest of full disclosure." This action forces vendors such as Microsoft to immediately shift priorities to address the problem more quickly, but at the same time alerts intruders to another inroad.
One possible way to shorten security patch turnaround time is for Microsoft and other vendors to publish beta copies of their security patches as they do for other software. One might think that if they make the security patch process open to public beta testers, the turnaround time could be reduced significantly. But releasing a beta security patch is essentially the equivalent of prematurely disclosing the nature of the vulnerability, which most vendors are loathe to do. It would be relatively easy for some people to reverse-engineer the patch to find the problem the patch is intended to correct. That of course could lead to increased risk for innocent people when the patch isn't widely available. It seems clear that public beta testing of security patches isn't such a good idea.
Many people think that vendors should consistently place the highest priority on correcting security problems in their respective products. In some cases, vendors do seem to place a priority on security fixes with reasonable consistency. But in other cases, a vendor's priorities are flexible based on their own perception of any associated risks. As was made clear yet again with the WMF vulnerability, interpretation of the risk level of a given vulnerability often varies among experts. Resolution of such differences of opinion isn't likely.
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==== 2. Security News and Features ====
Recent Security Vulnerabilities
If you subscribe to this newsletter, you also receive Security Alerts, which inform you about recently discovered security vulnerabilities. You can also find information about these discoveries at
Windows Metafile Vulnerability: From Bad to Worse
Some experts say the recently announced Windows Metafile Format (WMF) vulnerability isn't so bad. However, new exploits demonstrate its unfortunate potential.
Microsoft Releases WMF Vulnerability Patch
Acting outside of its regularly scheduled monthly patch release cycle, Microsoft released Security Bulletin MS06-001, "Vulnerability in Graphics Rendering Engine Could Allow Remote Code Execution (912919)," and a patch to correct vulnerabilities with Windows metafiles. The patch works on Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 (SP4), Windows XP SP1, and Windows Server 2003 SP1.
Three More WMF Vulnerabilities Discovered
On the heels of Microsoft's recent patch for the much-ballyhooed Windows Metafile Format (WMF) vulnerability, three more WMF vulnerabilities were discovered. They are no cause for major alarm, though, because currently they can only be used to cause Denial of Service (DoS) attacks--they don't allow execution of code.
CERT's Year-End Vulnerability Summary
The United States Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) posted its 2005 Year-End Index, which is a summary of bulletins published by US-CERT in 2005. The report includes counts of vulnerabilities that affect Windows, Unix, and Linux and those that affect multiple OSs.
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January 23-26, 2006, Sheraton Crystal City, Washington, DC. This new show--with 4 Briefings tracks and 11 Training classes--focuses on the problems and issues that governments face in protecting their infrastructure. Content will be oriented toward attack and defense, from rootkit detection to IDS evasion. Stellar speakers include Michael Lynn, Simson Garfinkel, Halvar Flake, and Dan Kaminsky.
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==== 3. Security Toolkit ====
Security Matters Blog: Second Unofficial WMF Patch Protects Win9x, Me, and NT
by Mark Joseph Edwards, http://www.windowsitpro.com/securitymatters
Microsoft released a patch for the Windows Metafile Format (WMF) vulnerability to protect Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. But what about users of previous Windows OSs? Learn about a third-party solution in this blog article on our Web site.
by John Savill, http://www.windowsitpro.com/windowsnt20002003faq
Q: How can I export and import my private keys from one machine to another?
Find the answer at http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/48667
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