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New Zero-Day Word Vulnerability Surfaces

Microsoft Corp. might have patched the most glaring vulnerabilities in its Word productivity program, but that doesn't mean Word is now airtight. Redmond last week warned of still another Word zero-day vulnerability that affects Office 2000 and Office XP.

The new vulnerability, like its predecessors, could result in remote code execution, Microsoft acknowledged.

As with other such exploits, a user must first open a malicious Office file in order to trigger the attack, Microsoft said. Typical attack vectors include attachment via e-mail, instant messaging, downloads from a malicious URL and access from removable media, according to the software giant.

In a posting on Microsoft?s Security Research Center blog, researcher Alexandra Huft confirmed that Redmond is currently investigating the vulnerability. If history is any indication, it could be several months before Microsoft delivers a fix for this latest exploit -- if it in fact determines that there?s enough "there" there. The first Word zero-day exploits came to light in early December, for example, and it wasn?t until February 13 -- just last week -- that Microsoft issued patches for them.

Prior to last week?s Patch Tuesday haul, Microsoft had confirmed the existence of no less than four Word zero-day exploits, all of which were apparently circulating "very limited, targeted attacks," according to Redmond.

Last week?s Word roll-up patch was thought to have addressed these issues, however. On Patch Tuesday, for example, Microsoft confirmed the existence of no less than six Word vulnerabilities, including: a Word Malformed String vulnerability, a Word Malformed Data Structures vulnerability, a Word Count vulnerability, a Word Macro vulnerability, a Word Malformed Drawing Object vulnerability and a Word Malformed Function vulnerability. All six flaws could allow Remote Code Execution, if successfully exploited, Microsoft officials acknowledge.

All four of the then-known Word "zero-day" exploits -- which presumably take advantage of one or more of the flaws Microsoft disclosed this week -- involved Remote Code Execution. The Word flaws affected Office 2000 SP3; Office XP SP3; Office 2003 SP2; Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac; and Microsoft Works Suites 2004, 2005 and 2006.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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