Technology

MS Office Suite vulnerabilities affect half million users in Q2 2022: report 

The exploits witnessed in older versions of Microsoft Office accounted for 82% of all vulnerability exploits across platforms

The exploits witnessed in older versions of Microsoft Office accounted for 82% of all vulnerability exploits across platforms | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Microsoft MSHTML remote code vulnerability previously witnessed in targeted attacks also increased sharply by eight times, when compared with the first quarter.

(Sign up to our Technology newsletter, Today’s Cache, for insights on emerging themes at the intersection of technology, business and policy. Click here to subscribe for free.)

Compared to Q1 2022, attackers using the vulnerability first reported in 2021 saw an increase of 696%, while the one first reported in 2017 witnessed an increase of 59%. Similarly, the vulnerability first reported in 2018 witnessed an increase of 3%. 

“Since the vulnerability is quite easy to use, we expect an increase in its exploitation,” said Alexander Kolesnikov, malware analyst at Kaspersky.

The vulnerability reported in September 2021 was used to attack 5,000 users in Q2 2022, which is eight times more than the first quarter of 2021. This zero-day vulnerability exists in Internet Explorer’s engine MSHTML. The engine is a component used by MS Office applications to handle web content. When exploited, it can be used by attackers to enable the remote execution of malicious code on the victims’ computers. 

Attackers exploit the vulnerability by sending maliciously crafted documents using social engineering techniques to the victims’ systems. MS Office applications then download and execute a malicious script, affecting the victims’ systems.

Telemetry data in the report noted that the vulnerability was previously exploited during attacks on organisations in research and development, energy, finance, medical technology, telecommunications, IT, and industrial sectors. 

Exploitation of other older vulnerabilities reported in 2018 and 2017 also saw an uptick with 487,000 users being affected in Q2 of 2022. These vulnerabilities are typically distributed using malicious documents by attackers and are used to damage the memory of the equation editor component and run malicious code on the victim’s computer. 

The vulnerability first reported in 2017 affected 60,000 users. This vulnerability enables attackers to control a victim’s computer and view, change, or delete data without their knowledge.  

The report also noted that since older versions of MS Office are still popular, they have become market leaders in terms of the total number of victims. The use of older versions has put MS Office Suite in the top spot for targeted attacks on different platforms like Adobe, Android, and Java.  

It is recommended that users update to the latest MS Office versions, using both security updates and solutions, to fix these vulnerabilities. 


Our code of editorial values

  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.

Printable version | Aug 18, 2022 5:15:48 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/ms-office-suite-vulnerabilities-affect-half-million-users-in-q2-2022-report/article65783286.ece