The folks at the Microsoft Security Response Center are winding down 2012 with another full release of seven Security Bulletins containing fixes for memory corruption on application, server, and system code along with a Certificate Bypass problem and set of fixes for Oracle Outside In software components. Within the seven Bulletins, they are patching at least 11 vulnerabilities, accurately described in the Advanced notification for this month. The MSRC recommends that their Internet Explorer (MS12-077) and Microsoft Word (MS12-079) updates are addressed asap.
The December 2012 Microsoft Security Bulletin Release fixes a varying array of versions of software and platforms per Bulletin. For consumers, that mostly means ensuring that the Microsoft Update software is enabled, run, and selected patches applied. For the vast majority of Windows customers, this month's release also requires that customers reboot their systems following the updates - the Internet Explorer, the kernel level font parsing updates and the file handling updates all require a reboot and hotpatching is not supported. The lack of hotpatch support means that the fix is not enabled on the system until it is rebooted. For IT folks in large and small organizations, this month's Release also requires some time set aside to understand whether or not your organization is running the versions of software requiring patches and accordingly address your environment.
The Microsoft Internet Explorer code maintains three different use-after-free vulnerabilities that are being patched this month. This "use-after-free" category of bugs is continuing to prove very difficult to stamp out, even in meaty, prevalent attack vectors like Internet Explorer. It was this sort of vulnerability that was abused in the 2010 Aurora cyber-espionage attacks on Google, Adobe, and the long list of other international corporate names that continue to maintain their incidents undisclosed and in the dark. At least one of these Internet Explorer vulnerabilities is likely to have exploit code developed against it.
As a vector of delivery for spearphish attacks, Microsoft Office seems to me to be the most popular target in the second half of the year. CVE-2012-0158 and CVE-2010-3333 continue to be identified in malicious attachments (both malicious Word and Excel files) in targeted attacks across the globe, while Adobe Reader and Flash, which were heavily abused, almost have fallen off the map. I don't know if this coincides with the release and distribution of the newly armored Adobe Reader X software and more sandboxing for Flash, or simply that offensive security investment in late summer had been directed toward producing toolkits that pump out the Office exploits we are seeing now. Either way, be sure to patch this Word flaw CVE-2012-2539 asap.
Unfortunately, we have seen kernel level exploits bundled into mass-exploitation kits like Blackhole. The Duqu exploit, previously used in very targeted attacks throughout the middle east, is being re-used in this manner. And MS12-078 this month patches kernel mode RCE for OpenType and TrueType font parsing flaws. The recent mass-exploitation activity increases and interest in kernel level font parsing vulnerabilities coincides with the open source github release of Microsoft font fuzzing tools and projects.
More of the Oracle Outside In code is being updated this month with a pile of publicly known critical vulnerabilities being patched much like in August of this year. Critical and Important Microsoft Exchange, DirectPlay, and IPHTTPS components are also being patched this month.
Also following up the annnouncement of the Microsoft software update release, Microsoft announced the availability of security updates for Adobe Flash that effect Internet Explorer users, among others. The flaws include a RCE buffer overflow vulnerability (CVE-2012-5676), RCE integer overflow vulnerability (CVE-2012-5677), and memory corruption vulnerability (CVE-2012-5678). For my production workstations and mobile devices, I've got multiple web browsers, and each one uses a different implementation of Flash. In my case, on my production systems, I visit this page with each browser to determine whether or not I have the lastest version of Flash. Android systems are effected too, and you can find more information at Adobe's APSB12-27. Perhaps we will see a resurgence of Flash exploitation over the next few weeks and into the New Year.