Microsoft Releases Two Patches For June - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Releases Two Patches For June

Both were rated as Moderate, the second-lowest rating on the company's four-step system.

For the second month in a row, Microsoft's list of security bulletins and patches was relatively short--just a pair, both rated "Moderate," were released Tuesday.

The vulnerability most likely to affect businesses lies in a flaw within software from partner Business Objects that's distributed with several Microsoft products, including Visual Studio .Net 2003, Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager (included in the Small Business and Professional Editions of Office 2003), and Microsoft Business Solutions CRM 1.2.

Visual Studio .Net 2003 and Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager include Crystal Reports, while CRM 1.2 includes Crystal Enterprise.

Business Objects' Crystal Reports and Crystal Enterprise contain a vulnerability that, if exploited, could let an attacker conduct denial-of-service attacks or retrieve and delete files through the Web interface of those programs, Microsoft said.

An attacker wouldn't need to introduce exploit code--such as that usually carried by a worm--to take advantage of this vulnerability. Instead, "any anonymous or authenticated user who could access the Crystal Web viewer on the affected system could attempt to exploit this vulnerability," Microsoft said in the bulletin.

The scale of the vulnerability depends on the security settings used by the Crystal Web Form Viewer. Additionally, machines are only vulnerable if they have Internet Information Services installed. Microsoft has posted several work-arounds in the MS04-17 bulletin, including disabling, stopping, or removing IIS from systems running any of the three packages that include Crystal Reports/Enterprise.

Microsoft rated the Business Objects-caused vulnerabilities as Moderate, the second-from-the-bottom ranking in its four-step threat meter. Patches can be downloaded using links in the security bulletin.

The second vulnerability posted by Microsoft affects DirectX versions as far back as 7.0 and as far forward as the most current 9.0b. These versions of DirectX are part of Windows 98, Win98 Second Edition, Windows ME, 2000, XP, and Server 2003, and can be exploited by attackers conducting denial-of-service attacks on game-playing systems.

"A denial-of-service vulnerability exists in the implementation of the IDirectPlay4 application programming interface of Microsoft DirectPlay because of a lack of robust packet validation," Microsoft admitted in the security bulletin. Even though the vulnerability affects a wide range of its operating systems, Microsoft rated it as Moderate.

DirectPlay and the IDirectPlay4 API were designed to help game developers create multiplayer networked games, and the most vulnerable systems are those that are running such games. In fact, for an intruder to compromise a PC, the machine must be running a DirectPlay-based game at the time of attack.

Even the impact of the denial-of-service attack would be minimal, said Microsoft. "An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could cause the DirectPlay application to fail. The user would have to restart the application," it stated in the MS04-16 bulletin

To successfully exploit this vulnerability, the attacker would first have to confirm that the target PC is running DirectPlay, create a connection to that machine, and send a malformed data packet.

Patches are available for Windows 2000, and the 32- and 64-bit editions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, via the Windows Update service and the links within the security bulletin released Tuesday --but fixes are not available for Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition (SE), or Windows ME.

Windows 98, 98 Second Edition, and ME are in what's called the Extended Support segment of their life cycles. Microsoft produces patches for older operating systems only when it ranks the vulnerability as "Critical," its highest rating.

A workaround for those users, said Microsoft, is to not run games or applications coded with the version 4 of the DirectPlay APIs. Newer games and apps are typically coded with version 8 of DirectPlay, so steering clear of older software should do the trick.

Does the two-month run of relatively low-level vulnerabilities mean Microsoft is on the right track? Not necessarily.

"These things will continue to be cyclical," says Craig Schmugar, virus research manager with Network Associates' Avert analysis team. "There are always valleys and hills."

In fact, we may be heading now into one of those troughs. Says Schmugar: "Historically, summer has been a slow time for both virus writers and people unscrupulous enough to release information about a vulnerability before informing the vendor."

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