The final Patch Tuesday for Windows XP will bring four bulletins, including a critical fix for a zero-day Word vulnerability uncovered last week.
The critical 0-day vulnerability - already the object of targeted attacks - opens the door to remote code execution nasties if a user opens a RTF file in Word 2010 or in Outlook while using Word as the email viewer.
The cross-platform update means all versions of Word will need patching, starting with 2003 to the latest 2013 edition, as well as Office for Mac installs.
The other critical fix will offer updates for Internet Explorer on everything from IE6 on XP to IE11 on Windows 8.1 and RT. The only version not affected is IE10 under Windows 7, although even this is likely to be updated to fix the vulnerabilities disclosed during the Pwn2Own competition at CansecWest last month, as cloud security firm Qualys predicts.
The remaining two bulletins due to land on 8 April will cover "important" security problems in all versions of Windows and Publisher 2003 and 2007. respectively. April will bring another relatively light patch load, repeating the pattern of recent months. The cumulative total of patches released in 2014 will hit 20 in April, compared to 26 this time last year.
Office 2003 together with Windows XP reach their end-of-life point after this Patch Tuesday and will thus stop receiving security updates from 8 April onwards. Two bulletins that impact Windows XP and one for Office 2003 are down to appear in their final scheduled updates.
More details will follow once the patches are released next Tuesday but for now all we have to go on is Microsoft's pre-alert.
Karl Sigler, threat Intelligence manager at security firm Trustwave, said that holdout XP users will be moving onto dangerous ground after next Tuesday's final run of patches is done.
"Windows XP is a thirteen year old operating system that lacks the security features of the latest Windows platforms like ELAM for pre-boot anti-malware protection and Windows Defender 2.0 for additional post-boot security," Sigler said. "Using a non-supported platform is dangerous territory. It’s just a matter of time until the next zero-day exploit will be used in the wild."
"Those who decide to remain on the Windows XP platform will be pretty much defenceless against these attacks unless third-party security solutions, such as Network-based Intrusion Prevention System (NIPS) and Host-based Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS) are in use," he added. ®