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2 Critical Flaws Patched in Microsoft VM

Microsoft issued a patch early Thursday fixing two critical vulnerabilities in its controversial Microsoft Virtual Machine, Microsoft's middleware for implementing Java code on Windows machines.

The patch, which is available in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS02-052, also fixes a third Microsoft VM vulnerability that Microsoft classifies as a "low" risk threat.

The critical vulnerabilities both could allow code execution on a user's machine in the security context of the user. One of the flaws involves the way the Microsoft VM vets requests to load and execute DLLs on a user's system. The other critical flaw results from the Microsoft VM's support for the use of XML by Java applets.

The Microsoft VM has a checkered history, especially recently. It is covered in the pending antitrust settlement between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice. Under the settlement agreement, Microsoft had to give users and computer manufacturers a way to remove the Microsoft VM along with Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Windows Messenger and Outlook Express from their systems. Microsoft implemented that change in Windows XP Service Pack 1 and Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, although Microsoft raised eyebrows when it interpreted the settlement language to mean it could simply provide tools to hide the middleware rather than actually removing it from the system.

The Microsoft VM is also one of several subjects in a lawsuit filed by Sun Microsystems, the owner of the Java development language and provider of a separate Java Virtual Machine for Windows based on a more recent version of the Java language.

The Microsoft Virtual Machine played prominently in the pre-Windows XP release drama when Microsoft at first planned not to include it in the operating system, instead making it available as a separate download. Later Microsoft did include its Microsoft VM in Windows XP.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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