The Microsoft April security release is almost upon us with security updates scheduled to deploy on Tuesday, April 8th. This day will go down in history as a major milestone for Windows XP and Office 2003 since it will be the last day these products will be supported.
Windows XP is a thirteen-year operating system that lacks the security features of the latest Windows platforms like ELAM for pre-boot anti-malware protection and Windows Defender 2.0 for additional post-boot security. Using a non-supported platform is dangerous territory. It’s just a matter of time until the next zero-day exploit will be used in the wild.
Those who decide to remain on the Windows XP platform will be pretty much defenseless against these attacks unless third-party security solutions, such as Network-based Intrusion Prevention System (NIPS) and Host-based Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS) are in use.
This month’s security release will mitigate vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer and several Windows internal components. There are two bulletins rated “Critical”, including bulletins for Microsoft Office and Windows/Internet Explorer. The other two bulletins are rated “Important”. Since the most critical vulnerabilities are in Microsoft’s flagship products, these updates should be a top priority. It is likely the update will require a restart so grab a cup of coffee and relax.
A few weeks ago, Microsoft posted security advisory 2953095 for a Word RTF Memory Corruption Vulnerability (CVE-2014-1761). To exploit the vulnerability, an attacker would need to specially craft an RTF file and use social engineering techniques to trick a user into previewing or opening the malicious file. There have been reports of attacks in the wild taking advantage of this vulnerability targeting Microsoft Word 2010 installations. It’s a real nasty vulnerability that affects a wide range of Microsoft products and there are many attack vectors.
Microsoft provided workarounds for affected products and a Fix it solution for Microsoft Word, but these are definitely not ideal solutions to mitigate this vulnerability. For example, a Fix it solution for Word would completely remove compatibility for RTF documents and Outlook users would be required to set their read format to plain text to protect against the email attack vector. Microsoft has yet to comment on whether there will be a security update for this vulnerability in this month’s release or if there will be an out-of-band security update.