PatchMicrosoft is starting off the New Year with a list of big changes and important patches.  Last month we reported that Internet Explorer 6 through 10 would be discontinued on January 12th, but this month also marks the end of support for the much maligned Windows 8.  On Tuesday, Microsoft delivered the final set of updates for Windows 8, which included nine security bulletins for various Microsoft products.

Windows 8 has had a relatively short product lifecycle.   Released back in 2012, Windows 8 was promised to unify the desktop and mobile PC market with a single universal operating system.  Unfortunately, performance issues and an awkward interface condemned the operating system from the start.  Microsoft pushed out a mini upgrade in the form of Windows 8.1, which addressed many problems, but the damage to its reputation had already been done and most users chose to give the OS a pass altogether.  If you do happen to be a Windows 8 user, worry not, as you still have the option to opt-in a to free upgrade to Windows 10.

Beyond this months discontinued software; Tuesday’s security update includes many bulletins worth notice.  Six of the nine security bulletins have been rated critical by Microsoft. One of which, has already been spotted as part of an attack and is a true zero-day vulnerability.

If you use Internet Explorer as your primary browser, the most serious vulnerability is MS16-001.  This vulnerability allows for a complete browser and computer hijack.  If a user visits a specially designed attack site, a hijacker can remotely take over the computer to install programs, browse data or even create a new user account with their own admin privileges.  This vulnerability is present in almost all versions of Internet Explorer and should be considered a high priority update.

Additional security bulletins in this week’s update address issues with Microsoft Office and various other Windows vulnerabilities.  For a full list of patch notes, you can visit the summary at the Microsoft Security TechCenter.  If you are a business that needs help installing updates or upgrading from an outdated operating system, visit our Contact Us page for assistance.

– Richard Keene
IT Computer Support of New York
Webmaster and Lead Designer