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Microsoft unleashes a Patch Tuesday to make your head spin

Microsoft isn't showing IT admins much love this Valentine's Day week with 12 new security bulletins.

It doesn't break the record for most vulnerabilities patched, or even the most security bulletins in a single Patch Tuesday, but Microsoft comes pretty close. For the February 2013 Patch Tuesday, Microsoft has a whopping 12 security bulletins, which fix a mind-numbing 57 separate flaws.

Paul Henry, security and forensic analyst at Lumension, says, "It's going to be a rough Valentine's Day for many IT admins this month. With ongoing issues with Java and 12 bulletins from Microsoft, including 5 critical issues and many restarts, it's going to be a very disruptive Patch Tuesday."

Senior Manager of Security Engineering, Ross Barrett, senior manager of security engineering for Rapid7, on the other hand, tries to stay positive. "On the plus side, none of the issues patched this month are known to be actively being exploited "in the wild"."

That is definitely good news, but IT admins still have their work cut out for them. Henry notes, "It's disturbing to note how many different Microsoft platforms are critically affected this month. Everything from Windows XP to the new Windows RT is critically impacted."

So, what does Microsoft have in store for you this month? Of the twelve security bulletins, five of them are rated as Critical, and the remainder are all Important. The patches span Windows, Office, .NET Framework, Microsoft Server Software, and not one, but two separate security bulletins dealing with Internet Explorer--both Critical.

Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle, stresses the urgency of patching flaws in Internet Explorer and Flash immediately. Both are remote execution bugs that pose a serious risk of exploit.

Storms explains, "We received two bulletins that include a total of 14 CVEs [vulnerabilities] affecting all versions of Internet Explorer today. Both bulletins fix 'drive-by bugs' that only require the victim to browse a website to become infected with malicious code."

Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, agrees that Internet Explorer is the top priority, and provides a little more detail as to what each security bulletin addresses. He says that MS13-009 is the core Internet Explorer update, which fixes 13 different flaws, while MS13-010 resolves a vulnerability in an ActiveX DLL (dynamic link library). Contrary to the comment from Barrett, though, Kandek says the ActiveX flaw is particularly urgent because it's being actively exploited in the wild.

Marc Maiffret, CTO at BeyondTrust, points out that there are urgent issues aside from Internet Explorer. "The TCP/IP vulnerability addressed this month looks like it could be a pretty nasty one. It is an unauthenticated remote denial of service vulnerability affecting versions of Windows from Vista and onward, with no available workarounds."

And, once again Microsoft is not the only game in town. Adobe also has some patches you need to be aware of. There are fixes for remote code execution flaws in Flash and Shockwave. Storms says, "The Adobe updates are just as important because successful attacks can allow attackers to gain complete control of infected systems."

Consumers and most small businesses should have Automatic Updates enabled, in which case your PC will just download and install the patches--requiring a reboot. IT admins should review all of the security bulletins and the updates from Adobe, and implement a plan to deploy the patches in order of urgency and potential impact.

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