security

Microsoft to pull apps with critical vulnerabilities

In a bid to purge insecure software from the Windows Store, Microsoft Tuesday announced that it would remove apps that it deems to have critical vulnerabilities.

Within 180 days, Microsoft said, those apps must either be patched or they will be removed.  And if an insecure app is being exploited in the wild, it risks getting pulled even sooner, executives said. The policy will also be extended to apps found in the Windows Phone Store, Office Store, and Azure Marketplace.

Microsoft outlines the vulnerabilities found within its own software, publishing the a list on the second Tuesday of each month, when it issues patches. But with the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT, the Windows Store has become an important clearinghouse for distributing apps, and Microsoft has become more of a gatekeeper.

“We want our customers to know that, if there’s a problem, we’ll be working on a solution,” wrote Dustin Childs, the Group Manager for Response Communications for Microsoft Trustworthy Computing, a blog post outlining the seven patches that Microsoft announced last week.  “But there are some things that can affect your computing experience that I can’t directly control. For example, we can’t directly update third-party apps that you install from the Windows Store if they have a problem. But we can influence when they get updated.”

Jared Newman
If these apps are found to have vulnerabilities, they will be pulled from the Windows Store, Microsoft said Tuesday.

In certain cases, developers will receive more than 180 days to fix their apps, but those are special cases and will be handled on an individual basis, Childs wrote.

Microsoft released seven security bulletins on Tuesday, addressing 34 vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer, .NET Framework, Silverlight, GDI+, and Windows Defender.

Microsoft highlighted two: a Critical security update for Internet Explorer that patches 17 different issues, including a vulnerability that could allow remote code execution if a customer views a specially-crafted Web page; and a Windows kernel vulnerability that could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted document or visits a malicious webpage that embeds TrueType font files, Microsoft said.

The IE issues were privately communicated to Microsoft and have not been exploited; however, the kernel issues have been used in “limited, targeted attacks,” the company said.

Microsoft has published a full list of the most recent security bulletins here.

With Windows 8, users must manually visit the Windows Store to update apps. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft will issue app updates in the background.

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