WinHEC 2006: Microsoft "Turning the Corner"

According to a report by Microsoft Watch's Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft's message this coming week at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2006 will be "We're turning the corner ... we are heading toward delivery." The message refers to Microsoft's three core products, Windows Vista, Longhorn Server, and Office 2007, all of which will ship in Beta 2 versions during WinHEC. Microsoft will make Windows Vista Beta 2 and Office 2007 Beta 2 available to the public, the first time these products have shipped to large numbers of people.

As is typical for Microsoft, the company's big push will involve demonstrating how these products work especially well with each other. The hope is that Microsoft's biggest corporate customers jump on board for all three products and roll them out nearly simultaneously beginning in 2007. Despite this, the timetable for each product is a bit different. Office 2007 is expected first, but Microsoft will hold off on that product's release until Vista is ready. The company will finish Vista in October 2006, but won't ship it to businesses until November and to consumers until January 2007. Microsoft will only vaguely commit to shipping Longhorn Server sometime in 2007.

Other themes at the show, according to Foley, will be the integrated Windows Office platform, virtualization, and Microsoft's strategies for emerging markets. WinHEC 2006 runs from May 23 through 25 in Seattle, and I'll be covering the show each day here in WinInfo and on the SuperSite for Windows.

Zero-Day Word Attack Now Underway

As if Windows users didn't have enough to worry about, hackers have exploited a newly discovered vulnerability in Microsoft Office Word 2003, and the exploit will soon be distributed widely online, say security researchers. The attack, dubbed Trojan.Mdropper.H, is a Trojan horse that exploits an undocumented vulnerability in Word and drops a file on compromised computers, according to security firm Symantec.

"Currently, observed attacks are limited to attacks against select targets," Symantec warned in a security bulletin. The Trojan horse begins as a Word document email attachment that includes an embedded executable; when the attachment is opened, a backdoor application is installed and the system is compromised. The back door, hidden with a rootkit, opens a communications channel to a malicious Web site, from which the program awaits instructions. The Trojan horse performs numerous functions, including taking and transmitting desktop screenshots, by which financial data or passwords might be stolen.

Trojan.Mdropper.H affects Word 2003 only, but can crash Word XP and Word 2000 without compromising the system. Affected OS versions include Windows Server 2003 and earlier. Microsoft says it's working on a fix for release on or before June 13, the next regularly scheduled security update release date. In the meantime, Symantec recommends blocking Word attachments at the network perimeter. For more information, see Symantec's security warning.