January 03, 2013, 8:08 PM — Microsoft is issuing two critical fixes on this month's Patch Tuesday, one of them affecting its most popular operating system -- Windows 7 -- in conjunction with Windows Server 2008 R2.
That problem allows remote execution of code on unpatched machines without users doing anything, a situation Microsoft always deems critical.
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The other critical bulletin addresses a vulnerability that affects the full range of Windows desktop operating systems from Windows XP to Windows 8 as well as Windows Server 2003, 2008, 2008 R2 and 2012, and also leaves the systems open to remote code execution. "It is likely that it is a vulnerability in one of the base libraries of Windows that is widely used, such as Windows XML Core Services, which had its last fix in July of 2012," says Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek.
While that's a relatively light load in terms of numbers of critical warnings, it doesn't mean it will be easy on IT departments making the patches. "There are a lot of restarts this month and they impact nearly all of the Windows operating systems," says Paul Henry, security and forensic analyst at Lumension, a security, vulnerability and risk management company.
One of the five bulletins designated important - No. 5 - may end up being the most significant in terms of wiping out the threat, says Alex Horan, senior product manager, CORE Security. The problem is located in Vista SP 2, Server 2008 and Windows 7. "This has the potential for the most long-term issues as it represents an extremely large base of potential targets if it is not rectified properly," Horan says.
This includes Windows RT, the new power-pinching version of Windows 8 for devices based on ARM processors, which is affected by the vulnerability addressed by the second of the critical bulletins as well as by three others that are ranked important, Henry notes. Users should get accustomed to it, he says. "The system has been patched a few times already since being released late last year, and we expect to see it included in many of this year's Patch Tuesdays," he says.