Woody Leonhard

About the Author Woody Leonhard


Microsoft reinstates Meltdown/Spectre patches for some AMD processors — but which ones?

As we rappel down the Patch Tuesday rabbit hole this month, Microsoft just announced that it’s going to start pushing its January Windows security patches onto AMD processors again. But it neglects to mention which ones. Per a late-night change to KB 4073707:

Microsoft has resumed updating the majority of AMD devices with the Windows operating system security update to help protect against the chipset vulnerabilities known as Spectre and Meltdown.

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Surprise! Excel gets a variation of the Word DDE block settings

You  may recall that Microsoft disabled automatic Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) in Word back in December. I wrote about the problem, and its solution, in “Office as a malware delivery platform: DDE, Scriptlets, Macro obfuscation.” Microsoft stopped automatic DDE, the {DDEAUTO} field in Word, while setting up certain registry entries that can soften that decision.

This month, I was surprised to discover, Microsoft has made a roughly analogous change in Excel. Applying this month’s Excel security patches doesn’t change the DDE server launch and DDE server lookup settings. But it does give admins the ability to stifle both of the user prompts associated with DDE access.

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A mess of Microsoft patches, warnings about slowdowns — and antivirus proves crucial

Welcome to another banner Patch Tuesday. Microsoft yesterday released 56 separately identified security patches for every supported version of Windows, Office, .Net, Internet Explorer and Edge. Out of that monstrous pile, only one patch cures a currently exploited problem — a flaw in Word’s Equation Editor that should have been fixed in November.

If you’re a “normal” user, your first priority shouldn’t be Microsoft’s patches, notwithstanding the fabulous PR job performed on Meltdown and Spectre’s behalf. Assuming you don’t open random Word docs with dicey embedded equations, your main concern right now should be getting your antivirus house in order.

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Buggy Win7 Meltdown patch KB 4056894 throwing blue screens

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Windows, Meltdown and Spectre: Keep calm and carry on

I’m increasingly skeptical of security holes that have their own logos and PR campaigns. Yesterday’s sudden snowballing of disclosures about two groups of vulnerabilities, now known as Meltdown and Spectre, has led to enormous numbers of reports of varying quality, and widespread panic in the streets. In the case of Intel’s stock price, that’s more like blood in the streets.

While it’s true that both vulnerabilities affect nearly every computer made in the past two decades, it’s also true that the threat — especially for plain-vanilla Windows users — isn’t imminent. You should be aware of the situation, but avoid the stampede. The sky isn’t falling.

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High-demand tasks for the Surface Book 2 swamp a plugged-in battery

Mark Coppock at Digital Trends has just published the results of a series of tests that he ran on Microsoft’s flagship Surface Book 2. Running Destiny 2 at high resolution/frame rate, or Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018 video editing app, caused the battery indicator to drop, even though the SB2 was plugged into the wall and fully charged.

Says Coppock:

The power supply on the 15-inch Surface Book 2 holds it back from being the portable workstation it seems to be at first glance … the Surface Book 2 15-inch comes with a 95-watt power supply. The notebook’s components, however, can consume more power than that when they’re running at full speed.

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Time to install Microsoft patches, except KB 4054517 for Win10 Fall Creators Update

December has brought a few surprises in Windows PatchLand, but by and large, the coast is clear. “Clear,” that is, unless you made the mistake of installing the Win10 Fall Creators Update, version 1709 (or got pushed into it), before the nominal four-month testing period lapsed.

In broad terms, it’s safe to install this month’s Windows and Office patches, unless you’re using Win10 1709, although there are a few obscure gotchas that may bite you if you’re using Win7 with encrypted fileshares, or Active Directory app login. For those who installed Win10 1709 before letting the unpaid beta testers skate out on Crait, there’s very little reason to install this month’s security patches, as long as you don’t use Internet Explorer or Edge. Which, if the statistics are to be believed, you probably don’t.

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Microsoft confirms stalled downloads, bogus errors in Win10 FCU update KB 4054517

Microsoft has just fessed up to a couple of the known bugs in this month’s Win10 version 1709 cumulative update, KB 4054517 – in particular, the stall at 99% download, and the completely bogus warning that the patch had failed to install with error 0x80070643. Sadly, several other problems with KB 4054517 have not been acknowledged. Yet.

In addition, we have new mea culpas for the November Patch Tuesday security update for Excel 2016, KB 4011220, which throws a “Cannot run the macro” warning, and for this month’s Patch Tuesday security fix for Microsoft Exchange, KB 4045655.

As usual, I’m seeing reports thatMicrosoft tech support staff don’t know about the problems, haven’t read the KB articles, and are recommending that people re-install Windows.

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Microsoft Patch Alert: Few problems in December, unless you’re running Win10 version 1709

It’s hard to remember the last time we had a Patch Tuesday as inoffensive as this month’s. February 2017 comes to mind — but then again, we didn’t have a Patch Tuesday in February, as Microsoft called it off.

Part of the reason for the relatively easy going this month, I’m convinced, is the lack of attention showered on Windows 7 and earlier versions of Windows 10 (including the Fall Creators Update, version 1703, which has become more-or-less fully baked and remains my version of choice). Aside from a few lackluster security patches, the December update for Win10 1607 fixed the “CDPUserSvc_XXXX has stopped working” bug introduced in a security patch two months ago, and the rest is largely routine.

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Office as a malware delivery platform: DDE, Scriptlets, Macro obfuscation

I, for one, thought that Office-based malware reached its zenith in the late 1990s, with the likes of Melissa. Sure, we’ve seen macro-based pain-in-the-neckware over the past two decades, including some macro malware that specifically attacks Macs, but by and large, Word, Excel and, to a lesser degree, PowerPoint now throw warning dialogs into the middle of just about any attack. Those with malevolent intent have moved on to greener fields.

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New patch KB 4057291 fixes last month’s buggy Radeon driver 22.19.128.0

I don’t know why Microsoft insists on pushing buggy driver patches out Windows Update, but we saw another one late last month. Folks running Windows 10 on PCs with older Radeon video cards who had Automatic Update enabled got trashed. They found that their monitors could no longer display resolutions higher than 1,280 x 1,024, and that multi-monitor hookups would only mirror each other.

The cause? A buggy driver identified by Windows Update as “Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. – Display – 7/25/2017 12:00:00 AM – 22.19.128.0.” There’s a lengthy discussion about the driver transgressions on the Microsoft Answers forum, and another on the AMD forum.

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Win10 FCU December patch KB 4054517 fails big time

Some subset of users of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, version 1709, report persistent bugs with this month’s Patch Tuesday missive, KB 4054517. Many of those reporting problems are using recent Surface devices. Microsoft has not acknowledged any problems. Official sites only offer the old “Gawrsh, you need to Restore/Restore/Reinstall” pabulum — and it doesn’t help.

What kinds of problems? They run quite a gamut. @jwhiz56 reports on AskWoody:

This KB installed on my MS Surface Pro 3, my HP HPDV8T laptop but refuses to install on my 2017 Surface Pro (purchased just before Thanksgiving). I’ve reset it multiple ways (the OS) and the update either sits at 99% downloaded, or it fails on installation. my C:\windows\logs\CBS directory eats up ALL of my disk free space. I’ve tried all hints/suggestions on the Microsoft forums related to this KB. when I downloaded the standalone version for my computer x86/windows 10, it says it’s not applicable to my computer.

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