Microsoft .Net Framework. October. Both HD Moore of Rapid7 and Jason Miller, data and security team leader at Shavlik Technologies, peggedMS09-061, a three-patch October update, as one of the most important of the year.
"What makes these vulnerabilities important is how they cut through the sandbox model around .Net applications," observed Moore. "These flaws would allow a malicious .Net application, an ASP .Net Web component or a Silverlight browser component to execute native code. Since a large portion of Microsoft's security strategy relies on the security of managed code, this is a major hit to their platform."
For his part, Miller reminded users that although Microsoft's update patched the vulnerability in Windows and its own Internet Explorer browser, "the vulnerability still existed for other browsers such as Firefox," he said. "Even with a fully-patched Firefox browser, a user could be stricken by a drive-by [attack] from a Web site that exploited the vulnerable Microsoft code."
SMBv2, October Although finally patched with MS09-050 in mid-October, one of the three bugs in this three-patch update came to light the month before to much fanfare.
In early September, researchers announced that exploit code had gone public for a new flaw in Vista and Windows 7. The bug in SMBv2 (Server Message Block version 2), a file- and printer-sharing protocol used by Windows, was first thought to only crash the operating system, bringing up the dreaded "Blue Screen of Death." However, researchers quickly figured out how to create reliable exploits that could hijack a PC.
Until it had a patch ready, Microsoft told users to run one of its "Fix-it" automated tools to disable SMBv2.
During its investigation, Microsoft also confirmed that although Vista and Windows Server 2008 were vulnerable; Windows 7 -- the final bits, anyway -- was not. Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC), the free preview Microsoft handed out to millions starting last May, contained the bug, however.
After it released MS09-050 in October, Microsoft made another mea culpa, and acknowledged that a programming error had been introduced by company engineers. They caught it in the final run-up to Windows 7's release, though ... and patched it for the operating system's so-called RTM, or release-to-manufacturing, build.
Computerworld 's ad hoc panel of researchers took sides on how Microsoft handled the whole deal. Moore, for instance, dinged the company: "This flaw, originally thought to be a denial-of-service by the researcher, turned out to be a great way of remotely running code in the kernel of Microsoft's latest operating systems," he said. "To confuse matters, Microsoft had already fixed the bug in Windows 7 RTM, but didn't backport it to Server 2008 or Windows Vista."
Miller sounded more pro-Microsoft. "They researched and found that only Windows 7 Release Candidate versions were affected by this vulnerability on the Windows 7 side," Miller said. "This vulnerability created a scare which proves that waiting for Microsoft to validate the vulnerability is the best option as they will provide accurate information."
Conficker patch, last year. Although Microsoft shipped the MS08-067 update in late October 2008, several researchers pointed to it as one of 2009's musts.
Don't remember MS08-067? You should ... it's the patch that plugged the hole that the notorious Conficker worm later exploited. And Conficker, though it didn't bring down the Internet last April, as some speculated, hasn't exactly gone quietly into the night: Earlier this month, Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) removed Conficker from over 156,000 PCs in a one-week period.
Those 156,000 machines wouldn't have become infected if their owners had applied the MS08-067 update.
"While companies seems to have a good handle on this vulnerability, Conficker numbers are still growing," said Qualys' Kandek while recommending last year's patch for this year's list. "Conficker scanning is one of the most prevalent types on the Internet."
"Yes, this patch was released in October of 2008, but, it is important to note that the first substantiated attack against this vulnerability happened in February of 2009 ... four months after the security bulletin was released," said Miller of Shavlik. "This shows that patch management is still an issue that many companies have not seriously addressed yet."