Microsoft May Release Out-of-Cycle Patch for Word Flaw

Microsoft confirmed "very limited, targeted" attacks on an open Word security flaw. The company is researching a patch.

Late Friday, Microsoft confirmed "very limited, targeted" attacks on an open Microsoft Word security flaw. The company is currently researching a patch -- one that it may not wait for its regular Patch Tuesday to release.

The flaw affects most versions of Word that are not running on Windows Server 2003 SP2, Vista or Vista SP1. Hackers can execute buffer overrun attacks by taking advantage of a flaw in Microsoft's Jet Database Engine (Jet) in Word that can allow the remote execution of code, according to Microsoft's security advisory on the issue. Windows Server 2003 and Vista are not vulnerable as they use a different version of Jet.

Microsoft is also investigating whether other products that use Jet may be vulnerable.

"Upon completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to help protect our customers. This may include providing a security update through our monthly release process or providing an out-of-cycle security update, depending on customer needs," the company said.

For now, Redmond has posted a workaround for the flaw in the security advisory that shows administrators how to restrict Jet from running as well as block .MDB attachments through Microsoft Exchange or other mail systems.

Customers could also be infected via the Web if they are lured into visiting a Web site that "contains a specially crafted Word file that is used to attempt to exploit this vulnerability."

Microsoft said that because successfully exploiting the flaw requires "customers to take multiple steps" in order to be affected, the risk is "very limited." A successful attack would mean that the hacker would gain the same rights as the user of the machine.

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the vice president of Web & Digital Strategy for 1105's Converge360 Group, where she oversees the front-end Web team and deals with all aspects of digital projects at the company, including launching and running the group's popular virtual summit and Coffee talk series . She an experienced tech journalist (20 years), and before her current position, was the editorial director of the group's sites. A few years ago she gave a talk at a leading technical publishers conference about how changes in Web browser technology would impact online advertising for publishers. Follow her on twitter @beckynagel.

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