DHS urges computer users to install Windows patch ASAP
In a rare alert, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has urged Windows users to plug a potential worm hole in the Microsoft operating system, CNet reports.
DHS issued a news release this week recommending that people apply Microsoft’s MS06-040 patch as quickly as possible. The software maker released the “critical” fix as part of its monthly patch cycle.
“Users are encouraged to avoid delay in applying this security patch,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. The patch fixes a serious flaw that, if exploited, could enable an attacker to remotely take complete control of an affected system, the agency said.
The flaw has some similarities to the Windows bug that enabled the notorious MSBlast worm to spread in 2003. Both security vulnerabilities are related to a Windows component called “remote procedure call,” which provides support for networking features such as file sharing and printer sharing.
“This is a very serious vulnerability,” Neel Mehta, a security expert at Internet Security Systems in Atlanta, told the news service. “At the moment, this exploit is being used in targeted attacks to compromise specific systems. However, there is nothing about the nature of the vulnerability that prevents it from being used in a much more widespread fashion as part of a worm.”
Microsoft worked with the Department of Homeland Security on the alert, the company said. Microsoft deems the vulnerability critical for all versions of Windows. However, users of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 should be protected by the Windows Firewall if they do not use file sharing and printer sharing.
The Microsoft updates are available via the Windows Update and Automatic Updates tools as well as from Microsoft’s Web site.