Microsoft has released 13 bulletins, covering 26 vulnerabilities, as part of a bumper Patch Tuesday.
All supported versions of Windows will need patching, though Vista and Win 7 (three critical updates) are less exposed than XP and Windows 2000 shops (five critical fixes).
Three of the bulletins are particularly severe and require immediate attention. One of these critical updates (MS10-006) addresses two vulnerabilities in the SMB networking service protocol that might easily lend itself to drive-by attacks on unpatched systems.
A separate vulnerability (MS10-007) in Windows Shell handler poses a similar code injection risk, but this problem is restricted to older versions of Windows (XP, Win 2K, Win 2003 Servers).
Lastly there's a fix (MS10-013) for Microsoft DirectShow which, left unpatched, creates a handy mechanism for hackers to take over machines, providing they succeed in tricking marks into opening maliciously constructed AVI video files.
Jason Miller, data and security team leader at patch specialist Shavlik, commented: "The size of this release is not uncommon. Historically, Microsoft has had a light January followed by a large February. This month’s patches address 26 vulnerabilities. There have been no reports of active attacks against these vulnerabilities. One of these vulnerabilities has been publicly disclosed."
Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of security scanning firm Qualys, explained that Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2 are less affected by the vulnerabilities because of "rewrites of the TCP/IP stack and the URI handling in Windows 7 and 2008/R2", which improved the implementation of these core OS technologies. Kandek also outlined patching priorities.
"Highest on our list for patching are MS10-006 SMB client and MS10-013 DirectShow, which affect all versions of Windows and have a low exploit ability index", he said. "Next are MS10-007 Shell URI handling, which is critical for Windows 2000, XP and 2003 and MS10-008, an update to the ActiveX Killbit settings, applicable to all platforms."
Eleven of the 13 bulletins released on Tuesday cover flaws in windows while the remaining two cover "important" fixes affecting older (pre 2007) versions of Office, as explained in Microsoft's summary here. An overview from the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Centre (ISC) disagrees with Redmond's security gnomes on the severity of the Office bugs, categorising both as critical. ®