Office Updates Include Patches for SharePoint Vulnerabilities

Severity: High


  • These vulnerabilities affect: Microsoft Office and related products like SharePoint Server
  • How an attacker exploits them: Varies. Typically by enticing users to open or interact with maliciously crafted Office documents, or interacting with web resources
  • Impact: Many. In the worst case, an attacker can gain complete control of your Windows computer
  • What to do: Install the appropriate Microsoft patches as soon as possible, or let Windows Automatic Update do it for you


Today, Microsoft released three security bulletins that fix a number of vulnerabilities in Office, SharePoint, and related components. We summarize these security bulletins below, in order from highest to lowest severity.

  • MS14-022: Multiple SharePoint Vulnerabilities

SharePoint Server is Microsoft’s web and document collaboration and management platform. SharePoint, and some of its related components, suffer from both multiple remote code execution vulnerabilities and a cross-site scripting (XSS) flaw. The remote code execution flaws pose the most risk, and involve several unspecified input sanitation vulnerabilities in a number of SharePoint pages. If an authenticated attacker can upload specially crafted content to your SharePoint server, he could leverage this flaw to execute code on that server with the W3WP (w3wp.exe) service account’s privileges. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s alert doesn’t go into detail about the privileges associated with the W3WP services account. However, we’ve found that w3wp.exe often runs as a child process under svchost.exe, which runs with local SYSTEM privileges by default; potentially making this a complete system compromise. If you run SharePoint servers, you should patch this as quickly as you can.

Microsoft rating: Critical

  • MS14-023: Office Remote Code Execution Flaw

Various Office components suffer from two publicly reported vulnerabilities. The worst is a remote code execution flaw involving the way Office’s “Grammar Checker” feature loads Dynamic Link Libraries (DLL). However, the flaw only affects Grammar Checker when the language is set to Chinese (Simplified). If a remote attacker can convince you to open an Office document that resides in the same directory (local or over a network) as a malicious DLL, she could exploit this flaw to execute code with your privileges. If you have local administrative access, the attacker gains complete control of your computer. However, this flaw will likely primarily affect Chinese Office users, which somewhat limits its impact. Office also suffers from something call a “token reuse” flaw, but it poses a lesser risk that the remote code execution one.

Microsoft rating: Important

  • MS13-086 MCCOMCTL ASLR Bypass Vulnerabilities

Office (and many other Microsoft products) ships with a set of ActiveX controls that Microsoft calls the Windows Common Controls (MSCOMCTL.OCX). Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) is a memory obfuscation technique that some operating systems use to make it harder for attackers to find specific things in memory, which in turn makes it harder for them to exploit memory corruption flaws. Office’s MSCOMCTL component doesn’t enable ASLR protection. This means attackers can leverage this particular component to bypass Windows’ ASLR protection features. This flaw alone doesn’t allow an attacker to gain access to your Windows computer. Rather, it can help make other memory corruption vulnerabilities easier to exploit. This update fixes the ASLR bypass hole.

Microsoft rating: Important

Solution Path:

Microsoft has released Office and SharePoint-related patches that correct all of these vulnerabilities. You should download, test, and deploy the appropriate updates throughout your network as soon as possible. If you choose, you can also let Windows Update automatically download and install these updates for you.

Keep in mind, however, that we highly recommend you test updates before running them in your production environment; especially updates for critical production servers.

The links below point directly to the “Affected and Non-Affected Software” section of each bulletin, where you can find all of Microsoft’s update links:

For All WatchGuard Users:

WatchGuard’s eXtensible Threat Management (XTM) security appliances can help mitigate the risk of some of these vulnerabilities. Gateway Antivirus and Intrusion Prevention services can often prevent some of these types of attacks, or the malware these types of attacks try to distribute. Nonetheless, we still recommend you install Microsoft’s updates to completely protect yourself from these flaws.


Microsoft has released patches correcting these issues.


This alert was researched and written by Corey Nachreiner, CISSP (@SecAdept).

What did you think of this alert? Let us know at

About Corey Nachreiner

Corey Nachreiner has been with WatchGuard since 1999 and has since written more than a thousand concise security alerts and easily-understood educational articles for WatchGuard users. His security training videos have generated hundreds of letters of praise from thankful customers and accumulated more than 100,000 views on YouTube and Google Video. A Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Corey speaks internationally and is often quoted by other online sources, including C|NET, eWeek, and Slashdot. Corey enjoys "modding" any technical gizmo he can get his hands on, and considers himself a hacker in the old sense of the word.

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