Home & Office

Microsoft patches critical hole in Windows kernel

November's Patch Tuesday features fixes for holes in Windows, Excel, and Word, and a critical one affecting the Windows kernel that could be used in drive-by download attacks on Web surfers.
Written by Elinor Mills, Contributor

Microsoft on Tuesday issued six security bulletins fixing 15 vulnerabilities, including a critical patch for holes in the Windows kernel and other Windows and Office components that could allow an attacker to take control of a computer.

The critical bulletin affecting the Kernel-Mode Drivers was publicly disclosed and could be used to create a Web page with malware designed to exploit the hole on systems that visit the page, Microsoft said in a blog posting.

"MS09-065, a bug in the Windows kernel, is this month's most serious issue," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle. "The vulnerability allows for remote code execution, and the attack code can be embedded inside MS Office files or be hosted on websites. Simply browsing an infected website will compromise unsuspecting users--not great for all the holiday shoppers looking to get a jump on their shopping. The novelty value of this bug is likely to attract many researchers. A lot of people will try to be the first to publicly post exploit code."

The two other critical bulletins fix holes in Web Services on Devices API and in License Logging Server. Two bulletins ranked "important" fix holes that pose risk of remote code execution if a user opened a maliciously crafted Excel or Word file.

"It is interesting that a new service that helps with the 'user experience' can cause so much harm," said Jason Miller, data and security team leader at Shavlik Technologies. "The WSDAPI service allows users to easily find devices such as printers and cameras on their network. This vulnerability is also not publicly known at this time."

Software affected by the patches includes Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Server 2008, Office XP, Office 2003, 2007 Microsoft Office System, Office 2004 for Mac, and Office 2008 for Mac, according to the bulletin.

Meanwhile, the Microsoft Malware Protection Center team added two rogue antivirus families to the Malicious Software Removal Tool -- Win32/FakeVimes, which calls itself "Windows System Defender" and "Windows Enterprise Suite," and Win32/PrivacyCenter, which calls itself "Safety Center."

This article was first published as a blog post on CNET News.

Editorial standards