- Microsoft is taking the unusual step of issuing an emergency fix for a security hole in its Internet Explorer software that has exposed millions of users to having their computers taken over by hackers.
The "zero-day" vulnerability, which came to light last week, allows criminals to take over victims' machines simply by steering them to infected Web sites; users don't have to download anything for their computers to get infected, which makes the flaw in Internet Explorer's programming code so dangerous. Internet Explorer is the world's most widely used Web browser.
Microsoft said it plans to ship a security update, rated "critical," for the browser on Wednesday. People with the Windows Update feature activated on their computers will get the patch automatically.
Thousands of Web sites already have been compromised by criminals looking to exploit the flaw. The bad guys have loaded malicious code onto those sites that automatically infect visitors' machines if they're using Internet Explorer and haven't employed a complicated series of workarounds that Microsoft has suggested.
Microsoft said it has seen attacks targeting the flaw only in Internet Explorer 7, the most widely used version, but has cautioned that all other current editions of the browser are vulnerable.
Microsoft rarely issues security fixes for its software outside of its regular monthly updates. The company last did it in October, and a
Here is the full story from Microsoft:
Microsoft has completed the investigation into a public report of this vulnerability. We have issued MS08-078 to address this issue. For more information about this issue, including download links for an available security update, please review MS08-078. The vulnerability addressed is the Pointer Reference Memory Corruption Vulnerability - CVE-2008-4844.
You can provide feedback by completing the form by visiting Microsoft Help and Support: Contact Us.
Customers in the United States and Canada can receive technical support from Microsoft Product Support Services. For more information about available support options, see Microsoft Help and Support.
International customers can receive support from their local Microsoft subsidiaries. For more information about how to contact Microsoft for international support issues, visit International Support.
Microsoft TechNet Security provides additional information about security in Microsoft products.
The information provided in this advisory is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Microsoft disclaims all warranties, either express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In no event shall Microsoft Corporation or its suppliers be liable for any damages whatsoever including direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, loss of business profits or special damages, even if Microsoft Corporation or its suppliers have been advised of the possibility of such damages. Some states do not allow the exclusion or limitation of liability for consequential or incidental damages so the foregoing limitation may not apply.
December 10, 2008: Advisory published
December 11, 2008: Revised to include Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 Service Pack 4, Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1, Internet Explorer 6, and Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 as potentially vulnerable software. Also added more workarounds.
December 12, 2008: Revised to correct operating systems that support Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2. Also added more workarounds and a reference to Microsoft Security Advisory (954462).
December 13, 2008: Revised to add the workaround, Disable XML Island functionality. Also, in a FAQ entry, clarified the list of recommended workarounds and added the blog post URL for recommended workarounds.
December 15, 2008: Updated the workarounds, DisableXMLIsland functionality and Disable Row Position functionality of OLEDB32.dll.
December 17, 2008: Advisory updated to reflect publication of security bulletin.
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