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Oracle patches fail to cover security risk

18 of 88 bugs still exploitable.

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Oracle's most recent set of critical security patches has left some serious problems unfixed, according to a security researcher.

David Litchfield of Next Generation Security Software (NGSS), who discovered eighteen of the 88 bugs fixed in last week's update, said the patch could allow attackers to continue taking advantage of some of the bugs.

"Having downloaded and given the Oracle October patch a cursory examination, some of the flaws Oracle told me were being fixed remain exploitable," he wrote in a message to the Bugtraq security mailing list last week. "Once again the patch is not sufficient."

The bugs discovered by NGSS include a buffer overflow vulnerability and 17 PL/SQL injection flaws, Litchfield said. Oracle's update includes fixes for bugs discovered by seven other researchers, according to Litchfield. The update is available from Oracle's website.

Few details have yet been released publicly about most of the flaws. NGSS, for its part, has a policy of withholding details about bugs for several months. "It's good to see that the NGS Disclosure policy of not publicly releasing details of the flaws 'fixed' seems to work as a useful fail safe mechanism," Litchfield wrote.

However, researchers - and by extension, attackers - are getting better at discovering security flaws by analysing patches themselves, industry observers have noted.

The October update includes fixes for 88 vulnerabilities in products including its database and application servers and in some PeopleSoft and JD Edwards applications. A work-around exists for just one of the vulnerabilties, according to Oracle. It recommends applying the patches as soon as possible.

One of the security vulnerabilities, known as CAN-2005-0873, was already public, Oracle said. According to the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures list, this allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web scripts or HTML into Oracle Reports Server 10g ( via multiple cross-site scripting attacks. Oracle provides few details of the vulnerabilties fixed by the other patches.

Oracle is no stranger to serious patching problems. In July, it released two sets of database patches to fix flaws in previously released security patches. One of the affected fixes is itself a fix to an earlier set of patches - in other words, a patch for a patch for a patch.

Oracle has come under heavy criticism for its patching system in recent months. Earlier this year a German security firm released details of several high-risk Oracle flaws, along with workarounds, claiming to have seen no action from Oracle two years after reporting the bugs. The firm said the delay was more evidence that Oracle's patching system is in disarray.

Oracle isn't the only high-profile company repeatedly caught with its pants down over important security patches. A problem with a critical patch relating to Microsoft's DirectShow streaming media software is leaving some Windows 2000 users unprotected, even after they've installed a patch, Microsoft has admitted.

Windows 2000 users who have installed Microsoft DirectX version 8.0 or 9.0 may not have actually fixed their software by installing Microsoft Security Update MS05-050, Microsoft said in a statement on its website.


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