"Although only rated important, we actually picked the Assembly Execution Vulnerability as the most severe issue this month," said Joshua Talbot, security intelligence manager for Symantec Security Response. "The vulnerability is due to an oversight that allows an attacker to run malware as soon as a user opens a Word or PowerPoint file. E-mail attachments will probably be the most common attack method in which this vulnerability is exploited."
Top Deployment Priority
Historically, January has a been a light month for Microsoft patches and, so far, this year is no different, noted Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle. As he sees it, the Windows Media Player bulletin for Windows Vista and XP should be the top deployment priority for everyone.
"The most significant bug in the bulletin can be exploited via a drive-by attacks, and that's always a major concern," Storms said. "This bulletin provides yet another reason to upgrade to Windows 7 because those users are not affected by this drive-by exploit."
The January release also includes an expected fix for the Beast SSL attack that was pulled from the December patch at the last minute because of third-party vendor interaction issues.
"It's interesting to note that despite all of the hype over the Beast, attacks have simply never materialized and the issue has retained its 'important' classification from Microsoft," said Paul Henry, security and forensic analyst at Lumension. "Overall, we saw a reduction in the number of critical issues from Microsoft in 2011. To that end, we can anticipate Microsoft will bolster defense-in-depth efforts and will likely increase the numbers of important issues like privilege escalation."