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MS12-013: More information about the msvcrt.dll issue

Today we are shipping a security update to address a Critical-class memory corruption vulnerability in the Microsoft C Run-Time Library (msvcrt.dll) shipped with Windows. We have issued the bulletin with Critical severity because attackers could potentially trigger the vulnerability by luring a victim into browsing to a malicious webpage that launches Windows Media Player, or by opening a malicious file with Windows Media Player.

Seldom-used functionality

While the Windows Media Player attack vector is unfortunate, one might look at the affected DLL (msvcrt.dll), recognize that a number of Microsoft applications load the DLL, and speculate that a large percentage of applications might be vulnerable. Thankfully, that is not the case. Based on what we have seen in our code base, the affected functions are rarely used by components shipping with Windows. At this time, Media Player is the only known vector to provide an exploit path for the vulnerability. And even if other attack vectors are discovered, after applying the security update, all Microsoft products will be protected from the issue.

Applications built with recent versions of Visual Studio are safe by default

All applications built with Visual Studio 2003 and higher are not affected by this issue, unless they are specifically loading msvcrt.dll. Starting from Visual Studio 2003, any program that is dynamically linked to the C Run-Time library will use msvcrXX.dll instead of msvcrt.dll.

It is important to note that msvcrt.dll is a known DLL. This means that it is a system component owned and built by Windows. It is intended for future use only by system-level components. An application should use and redistribute msvcrXX.dll. Windows will only look in %WINDIR%\system32 to locate msvcrt.dll. Any application that is linked to msvcrt.dll will load the vulnerable version, regardless of the presence of another version in the current directory – though, again, applying this bulletin eliminates the issue.

Guidance for 3rd party application developers

If you have developed an application by statically linking to the C Run-Time library shipped with Visual Studio, you are safe. If your program is dynamically linked to the C Run-Time library, then you should ensure that all your objects are linked with a recent version of Visual Studio. This will assure that you are using msvcrtXX.dll and are not affected by this problem.

- Ali Rahbar, MSRC Engineering