Patches Galore In February Security Fix Deluge


Between Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday and Adobe’s Shockwave update, IT departments have a heavy load of patches to apply

February has brought a flood of software patches from Adobe, Microsoft, Mozilla, Symantec, and Apple.

Adobe is fixing several security vulnerabilities in its Shockwave Player, as well as its Robohelp authoring product, as part of the company’s scheduled update.

Adobe’s Product Security Incident Report Team closed nine critical security holes in Shockwave Player version, as well as earlier versions of the software, for both Microsoft Windows and Apple’s Mac OS X, according to the security advisory. The memory corruption and heap overflow vulnerabilities in Shockwave 3D Asset, if exploited, could potentially allow attackers to run malicious code, according to Adobe.

Bug fix backlog

Shockwave 3D Asset is a standard component within Shockwave Player that allows users to open and view certain 3D format files. Adobe last patched this component in June.

The second bulletin addressed an “important” vulnerability in Adobe RoboHelp 9 or 8 for Word on Windows. Attackers could potentially use a specially crafted link to launch a cross-site scripting attack on Web-based output generated with RoboHelp, according to the security advisory (APSB12-04). RoboHelp is an authoring software for technical writers and developers creating online Help menus for Web-based and desktop applications.

Microsoft released its Patch Tuesday bulletins for February on the same day. Even though there were only nine patches from Microsoft, administrators have a fairly long list of third-party updates to work through.

After a “very quiet” December and January, non-Microsoft vendors are getting back in the patching cycle, according to Jason Miller, manager of research and development at VMware.

Mozilla released Firefox 10.1 to close a security flaw that exposed users to drive-by attacks in the latest version of its Web browser it had released just last month. The fix is also applicable to the Thunderbird mail client and SeaMonkey application suite. Google updated its Chrome Web browser twice in the past few weeks to close bugs and add new security features. Opera, Real Player, Skype and Yahoo Messenger have also been updated.

Symantec issued a series of critical patches to close vulnerabilities in pcAnywhere in late January. The company recommended that organisations disable pcAnywhere until the patches had been applied, or risk being compromised remotely. Symantec is also offering free upgrades to anyone using older, unsupported versions.

Apple also released a security update for Mac OS X Lion and Snow Leopard addressing 52 issues earlier this month. Apple followed up with a second security update for Snow Leopard users a few days later following reports that the first security update was causing the systems to crash.

Strategy? What strategy?

Patching strategies at many businesses are “often less than adequate”, Secunia said in its annual report.

Third-party programs are driving the growth in software vulnerabilities, according to Secunia. In 2011, 78 percent of disclosed vulnerabilities affected third-party programs, compared to 12 percent found in operating systems and 10 percent found in Microsoft applications.

“By not addressing errors in software installed on typical end-points, organisations and individuals are in effect leaving their ‘windows’ wide open for cyber-criminals to enter and compromise their most sensitive data,” said Stefan Frei, research analyst director at Secunia.

What applications cyber-criminals will choose to target is “often vastly different” from what organisations thinks are likely to be targeted, said Frei. Administrators often focus on patching business critical programs, not realising that cyber-criminals will easily target less critical programs as well. Cyber-criminals “only need one vulnerable program to compromise the host”, said Frei.

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