The gaffe is unprecedented, said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security. "I don't remember this ever happening," said Storms.
Microsoft normally publishes the lengthy write-ups -- called "bulletins" by the company -- only when it ships the actual patches that fix the described problems. Under normal circumstances, the bulletins would have appeared around 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern, on Tuesday, September 13.
Although the bulletins went live Friday, the updates did not: A quick search of Microsoft's download center, where the updates are typically posted for manual download, did not show any available patches. Nor did the updates apparently reach users through Windows Update or the business-oriented Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).
Thursday, Microsoft rolled out its usual advance notification for next week's Patch Tuesday, saying that it would issue five updates to patch 15 vulnerabilities in Windows, Excel, SharePoint, and other products in its portfolio.
The bulletins confirmed what Microsoft said Thursday: The updates will quash 15 bugs, all rated "important," the second-highest threat ranking in the company's four-step scoring system.
Two of the vulnerabilities are in Windows; five in Excel, the spreadsheet included with Office; two in non-application Office components; and six in SharePoint and associated software, such as Groove and Office Web Apps.
Of the 15, at least two are "DLL load hijacking" vulnerabilities , a term that describes a class of bugs first revealed in August 2010. Microsoft has been patching its software to fix the problem -- which can be exploited by tricking an application into loading a malicious file with the same name as a required dynamic link library, or DLL -- since last November.
The bulletins appeared complete, although there were errors that presumably would have been caught during a final edit: In MS11-074, for example, the bulletin's summary claimed that only five vulnerabilities were patched. Deeper into the bulletin, however, six vulnerabilities were listed.
Storms didn't think the early leak is much to get nervous about.
"From what Microsoft had given us yesterday, none of these [bulletins] were terribly exciting or worrisome. So I see this as an embarrassment of procedure rather than a giant disclosure," Storms said.
Microsoft did not immediately reply to questions about how the bulletins appeared four days early, or what it planned to do about the mistake.
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