Microsoft has confirmed that this month's security patch release will fix a critical issue in Office 2010, but not a recently uncovered flaw in Internet Explorer.
The company said in the November 2010 Patch Tuesday Advance Notification that it will release three security updates addressing 11 specific issues and vulnerabilities. Affected products include Office and the Forefront Unified Access Gateway.
Microsoft will release the patches on 9 November, but has been criticised by security experts for failing to address the IE security flaw which is already being exploited in the wild.
"Following the biggest Patch Tuesday on record last month, Microsoft is catching its breath with just three bulletins for November. Only one is critical, but all three may require a restart," said Alan Bentley, senior vice president at Lumension.
"While it may be a quieter month for patches, there is still the matter of the IE vulnerability being used in 'drive-by' hacks that allow an attacker to perform a remote code execution, loading malware onto a visiting user's network. "
Bentley maintained that this approach leaves IE users unsure of their level of protection, and urged Microsoft to consider releasing an out-of-band fix.
"Despite this vulnerability affecting IE versions 6, 7 and 8 there continues to be no mention of it, and Microsoft, despite issuing a workaround, is not expected to release an out-of-band patch," he said.
"This could leave many users waiting for more than a month before they know they are fully protected from this threat because a workaround typically is not implemented by the majority of users."
The need for a fix is particularly pressing, according to Bentley, and deserves a proper patch before the Christmas shopping season starts in earnest.
"In the run up to Christmas, with industry experts predicting online shopping in the UK to increase by 23 per cent from 2009, it seems rather surprising that Microsoft has not prioritised a patch," he said.
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