Successful exploitation of the flaw would crash the application and could be used to run arbitrary code on a user's PC, although the latter has not yet been proven in practice.
The problem occurs when PowerPoint uses data taken directly from a presentation file as a pointer when saving or closing the presentation.
This can be exploited to corrupt the memory and manipulate the program flow in various ways.
The vulnerability has been confirmed in Windows XP Service Pack 2 with a fully patched version of PowerPoint 2003, although other versions may also be affected.
Users are advised that the only way to avoid the problem is to not open Office documents from untrusted sources.
The problem was labelled 'highly critical' by the Secunia security watchdog website.
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