It’s Extra Special Patch Tuesday!

Yep, this gaping hole in Windows is so bad that Microsoft couldn’t even wait until next week’s regularly scheduled Patch Tuesday to try and fix it.

Microsoft issues emergency security patch for million dollar Windows flaw

Microsoft today rushed out an emergency patch for Windows Vista and Windows 7 PCs just eight days before its next Patch Tuesday.

The software giant issues security patches on the second Tuesday of each month, and only rarely issues so-called out-of-band patches. The company has never issued an emergency patch this close to Patch Tuesday, says Jason Miller, data and security team leader at patch management firm, Shavlik Technologies.

“Coming out with this patch this close to a Patch Tuesday is severe,” says Miller. “People should be paying attention to this one, and patch as soon as possible.”

Importantly, the emergency patch does nothing for hundreds of millions of PCs running Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2000, since Microsoft last month stopped issuing security updates for those older versions of its flagship operating system. The company continues to urge Windows XP SP2 users, in particular, to upgrade to Windows XP SP3, which will continue to get security updates, or to buy new Windows 7 PCs.

Update: To be clear, this patch will work on Windows XP SP3, Windows Server 2003 SP2; Windows Vista, Window Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2. It will not work on Windows XP SP2 or Windows Server 2000.

At the Black Hat and Def Con security conferences in Las Vegas last week, attendees referred to this Windows flaw as a $1 million vulnerability. Savvy hackers can tweak a basic component of all versions of Windows, called LNK. This is the simple coding that enables shortcut program icons to appear on your desktop.

No one in the legit world knew the LNK flaw existed until mid July, when security blogger Brian Krebs began reporting on a sophisticated worm spreading via USB thumb drives. That worm, known has Stuxnet, took advantage of the newly-discovered flaw to run a malicious program designed specifically to breach Siemens SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) software systems. Over a period of months the attackers had infected Siemens SCADA controls in power plants and factories in Iran, Indonesia, India and some Middle East nations, according to antivirus firm Symantec.

See also:
Microsoft Security Bulletin MS10-046 – Critical
Microsoft ships rush patch for Windows shortcut bug
Microsoft issues emergency patch for Windows shortcut link vulnerability
Microsoft Patches Windows Shell Vulnerability
Microsoft’s New Patch for Windows Shortcut Exploit
Emergency patch closes LNK hole in Windows
Microsoft sticks to plan, denies emergency patch for XP SP2

The new emergency patch is here, the new emergency patch is here!

/so, if your Windows didn’t automatically update, you’d better do it now

Health Care, Conficker Style

This is certainly a disturbing development.

Conficker worm hits hospital devices

A computer worm that has alarmed security experts around the world has crawled into hundreds of medical devices at dozens of hospitals in the United States and other countries, according to technologists monitoring the threat.

The worm, known as “Conficker,” has not harmed any patients, they say, but it poses a potential threat to hospital operations.

“A few weeks ago, we discovered medical devices, MRI machines, infected with Conficker,” said Marcus Sachs, director of the Internet Storm Center, an early warning system for Internet threats that is operated by the SANS Institute.

Around March 24, researchers monitoring the worm noticed that an imaging machine used to review high-resolution images was reaching out over the Internet to get instructions — presumably from the programmers who created Conficker.

The researchers dug deeper and discovered that more than 300 similar devices at hospitals around the world had been compromised. The manufacturer of the devices told them none of the machines were supposed to be connected to the Internet — and yet they were. And because the machines were running an unpatched version of Microsoft’s operating system used in embedded devices they were vulnerable.

Normally, the solution would be simply to install a patch, which Microsoft released in October. But the device manufacturer said rules from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration required that a 90-day notice be given before

“For 90 days these infected machines could easily be used in an attack, including, for example, the leaking of patient information,” said Rodney Joffe, a senior vice president at NeuStar, a communications company that belongs to an industry working group created to deal with the worm. “They also could be used in an attack that affects other devices on the same networks.”

Joffe, who is scheduled to testify before Congress on Friday, said he will ask lawmakers to remove the barriers to coordination between federal agencies so that cyberthreats like Conficker can be addressed.

In addition to the medical-imaging machines, Joffe said the working group has seen thousands of other machines located in hospitals reach out to the Conficker mastermind by contacting another computer on the Internet for instructions. Researchers have not determined the function of these machines. They could be a personal computer sitting on a secretary’s desk or more sensitive medical devices linked to patient care.

See also:
Conficker infected critical hospital equipment, expert says
Conficker Worm Hits U.S. Hospitals, Infecting Computers and Equipment
Conficker spotted in critical medical equipment
Hospital devices face threats from Conficker computer worm
Conficker infected critical hospital equipment
The Microsoft Tax: Windows Conficker worm hits hospital devices; Macintosh unaffected
Report: Conficker in attack mode
Conficker adds new weapon: spam
Conficker virus begins to attack PCs
SANS Internet Storm Center
Internet Storm Center
SANS Institute
SANS Institute
NeuStar
NeuStar
W32/Conficker.worm
Conficker
Protect yourself from the Conficker computer worm
Conficker Worm: Help Protect Windows from Conficker

Like with the swine flu, if everyone would just take basic, common sense precautions, they won’t have any problems with Conficker and won’t play a part in helping spread it to others.

/do your part, keep your Windows PCs up to date with the most current Microsoft patches and always run currently updated anti-virus and firewall software