July 6, 2006 6:15 PM PDT

Another security hole found in Excel

A hole in Microsoft Excel has been identified that could allow attackers to take control of a computer, a security group said Thursday--the third vulnerability affecting the popular spreadsheet program to surface in less than a month.

The flaw is due to a memory corruption error that occurs when handling or repairing a document containing overly long styles, the French Security Incident Response Team said in an advisory.

The flaw, which affects Excel 2000, 2002 and 2003 and Office 2000, XP and 2003, "could be exploited by attackers to execute arbitrary commands by convincing a user to open and repair a specially crafted Excel file," the advisory said.

A Microsoft representative said the company is investigating reports of a new vulnerability in Excel and was not aware of any attacks related to it.

"In order for this attack to be carried out, a user must first open a malicious Excel document that is sent as an e-mail attachment or otherwise provided to them by an attacker," the representative said in an e-mail. "Opening the Excel document out of e-mail will prompt the user to be careful about opening the attachment."

The vulnerability affects only users of Japanese, Korean or Chinese language versions of Excel, the Microsoft representative said.

Customers who believe they are affected can get more information on Microsoft's security Web site. For more information about protecting a computer from threats, Microsoft has this site.

Excel hackers have been busy. On June 16, experts warned about a hole that was exploited in at least one targeted cyberattack. About two weeks ago, an Excel hole was discovered that could crash the program after a malicious file is opened.

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4 comments

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Ratio of holes vs. attacks
I've been wondering... What is the ratio of vulnerabilities vs the attacks on those vulernabilities? Of course there isn't an exact number, but there seem to be so many holes found. The number of people affected can't be anywhere close to the number of flaws.
Posted by nobyrn (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It depends on the hole.
Windows has over 114,000 known pieces of malware and that
number is growing by the hundreds every month. It isn't likely
that there are over 11,400 holes in Windows, so the ratio of
attacks vs vulnerabilities must be much more than 10 to 1. That
said, there have been reports of dozens of alleged holes in Mac
OS X, but the only known malware consists of three blatantly
unsuccessful trojans. That would put the ratio of attacks vs
vulnerabilities at much less than 1 to 1 for OS X. When you only
consider successful attacks, the ratio for Windows would still be
very high, while OS X's would drop to zero.
Posted by Macsaresafer (802 comments )
Link Flag
Ratio of holes vs. attacks
I've been wondering... What is the ratio of vulnerabilities vs the attacks on those vulernabilities? Of course there isn't an exact number, but there seem to be so many holes found. The number of people affected can't be anywhere close to the number of flaws.
Posted by nobyrn (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It depends on the hole.
Windows has over 114,000 known pieces of malware and that
number is growing by the hundreds every month. It isn't likely
that there are over 11,400 holes in Windows, so the ratio of
attacks vs vulnerabilities must be much more than 10 to 1. That
said, there have been reports of dozens of alleged holes in Mac
OS X, but the only known malware consists of three blatantly
unsuccessful trojans. That would put the ratio of attacks vs
vulnerabilities at much less than 1 to 1 for OS X. When you only
consider successful attacks, the ratio for Windows would still be
very high, while OS X's would drop to zero.
Posted by Macsaresafer (802 comments )
Link Flag
 

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