Microsoft has rushed out a security patch to fix a critical flaw in the Windows operating system ahead of its usual monthly security schedule.
With the risk of attacks from the flaw gradually going up and independent security researchers releasing their own unofficial fixes to the problem, Microsoft felt pressured to act now.
The flaw relates to the way the operating system handles Windows Meta File (WMF) images on websites. A number of websites are springing up that are persuading users to download malicious code via such images.
If infected, the user could see remote attackers take over their machine by being able to run arbitrary code at will.
“Microsoft is releasing the update early in response to strong customer sentiment that the release should be made available as soon as possible,” said the company on its website.
Security bulletin MS06-001 was originally scheduled for release next Tuesday, after the company acted in response to reported WMF problems shortly after Christmas.
It is the first major security update of the year from Microsoft. It is expected there will be others next Tuesday for companies to manage as part of Microsoft’s usual monthly patching cycle.