Microsoft urges Office users to block Flash Player attacks

Suggests configuring advanced blocking tool to protect Excel 2007 and older

Microsoft yesterday urged users of older Office suites to install and run a complicated tool to protect themselves against ongoing attacks exploiting an unpatched bug in Adobe's Flash Player.

"For users of Office prior to 2010, the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) can help," said Andrew Roths and Chengyun Chu, a manager and security engineer, respectively, with the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC). "Turning on EMET for the core Office applications will enable a number of security protections called 'security mitigations'," the pair wrote in a Thursday post to the company's Security Research & Defense blog.

EMET is a tool designed for advanced users, primarily enterprise IT pros, that manually enables ASLR (address space layout randomization) and DEP (data execution prevention) for specific applications. ASLR and DEP are two anti-exploit technologies included with Windows.

On Tuesday, Adobe confirmed that attackers were exploiting an unpatched bug in Flash Player by sending potential victims malicious Microsoft Excel documents.

Excel is the spreadsheet bundled with the Office suite.

According to Roths and Chu, Excel 2010, the version included with Office 2010, is not susceptible to the attacks now in circulation because that edition of the spreadsheet has DEP enabled. "The current attacks do not bypass DEP," they said.

Excel 2010 further protects users by isolating malicious files inside Office 2010's "Protected View," a "sandbox" that prevents attack code from escaping the application.

But people running older versions of Excel -- including the versions in Office 2007 and 2003 -- are not protected by DEP or Protected View.

Microsoft has recommended EMET before as a stop-gap defense when Adobe zero-days have hit the street. In September 2010, Microsoft told users to configure EMET to block attacks exploiting a then-unfixed flaw in Adobe Reader.

EMET 2.0 is a free download available from Microsoft's site. After downloading and installing EMET, users must manually configure the tool to add protection to Office's applications, Excel included, and perhaps their browser(s) as well.

Adobe plans to patch the Flash Player vulnerability sometime next week.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags MicrosoftsecurityWindowssoftwareoperating systems

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?