Microsoft Plans Stopgap Patch for Internet Explorer Hole
Microsoft will push out an out-of-cycle Windows patch to temporarily fix the critical Internet Explorer flaw revealed earlier this week.
"While we have only seen a few attempts to exploit the issue, impacting an extremely limited number of people, we are taking this proactive step to help ensure Internet Explorer customers are protected and able to safely browse online," Microsoft Trustworthy Computing director Yunsun Wee said in a blog posting yesterday (Sept. 18).
"The Fix it is an easy-to-use, one-click, full-strength solution any Internet Explorer user can install," Wee wrote. "It will not affect your ability to browse the Web, and it will provide full protection against this issue until an update is available. It won’t require a reboot of your computer.
"This Fix it will be available for everyone to download and install within the next few days," she added.
Microsoft usually pushes out software updates and security patches on the second Tuesday of every month. Out-of-cycle patches are reserved for the most serious flaws.
It's not clear what exactly Microsoft has in mind, if, as Wee indicates, the "fix it" is not a real update.
Microsoft initially suggested that all Internet Explorer users install and configure a utility called the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) to prevent exploitation of the flaw, but admitted EMET might interfere with other applications.
Most security experts, and the German government, have recommended a simpler solution: Stop using Internet Explorer entirely until the flaw is fully fixed.
The Internet Explorer vulnerability allows an attacker to gain remote control of a Windows machine at the same level of privilege as the current user.
That's not so bad if a given machine's current user has limited privileges, but very serious if the current user has administrator rights and can install, modify or delete software.
The flaw affects all currently distributed and supported versions of Internet Explorer and Windows: Internet Explorer versions 6, 7, 8, and 9 and Windows XP, Vista and 7, as well as Windows Server 2003, and 2008.
Windows 8, due to be released to the general public Oct. 26, and its accompanying Web browser, Internet Explorer 10, are not affected. Nor is Windows Server 2012.