Microsoft Readies WMF Patch

The Windows Metafile Format (WMF) flaw is not quite a zero-day exploit
anymore, but it’s not quite patched yet, either.

Microsoft has completed the development of a security
update to fix the WMF flaw, which appeared last week. However, the update is being tested for
quality control and isn’t going to be released until Tuesday, Jan. 10.

An attacker could take advantage of the flaw to execute arbitrary code on
a vulnerable Windows XP and Windows 2003 system.

The exploit targets how IE handles pictures that are transmitted by malicious sites hosting the .wmf file. The flaw saw numerous variants and was reportedly being exploited in the wild. The WMF exploit also had been added to the popular Metasploit Framework, which could potentially also allow for easy execution.

The updated Microsoft advisory acknowledges that, though the vulnerability
is “serious” and attacks are being attempted, “the scope of the attacks are not widespread.”

Part of the reason for the mitigation of the flaw’s impact is the fact
that the major antivirus companies have updated their virus signatures
to prevent execution of the associated virus.

Microsoft’s own Windows OneCare Live Beta also provides protection against the vulnerability.

In its updated advisory, Microsoft also addresses the reason it
is taking Microsoft so long to issue a security update.

“Creating security updates that effectively fix vulnerabilities is an
extensive process,” the advisory states.

The advisory explains that Microsoft security personnel spend time to
investigate the severity of the vulnerability, as well as its impact on
applications. Updates are developed for every supported version of the
supported product, localized for 23 languages and then issued simultaneously
worldwide.

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