Microsoft vulnerabilities have more than doubled in the last five years, rising to 685 from 325 in 2013 – an 111% increase. This has not been at a steady rate, however: 2017 saw the most number of flaws reported in any year to date.
According to the fifth annual Microsoft Vulnerabilities Report from Avecto, the number of critical vulnerabilities has risen by 60% since 2013. Also, despite Windows 10 being widely regarded as the most secure Windows operating system to date, the number of critical vulnerabilities in it alone increased by 132% over a five-year period.
Looking at year-over-year numbers, in total, 587 vulnerabilities were reported across Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1/RT 8.1 and Windows 10 operating systems in 2017. Windows 10 flaws rose by a whopping 64% in 2017 compared to the previous year, hitting record highs.
Last year also saw an 89% increase in Microsoft Office vulnerabilities and a 98% increase in Microsoft browser vulnerabilities over 2016 (though this is in part due to the inclusion of Microsoft Edge from 2016 onward).
Overall, 2017 shows the largest year-on-year increase of vulnerabilities by volume, with 685 vulnerabilities reported, compared to 451 in 2016.
The results show that “100% security cannot be guaranteed in the cyber-world,” said Eric Cole, instructor at the SANS Institute. “No matter how many safeguards you put in place, there will always be some risk. Prevention techniques like application whitelisting, removing admin access and adopting the principles of least privilege go a long way toward protecting individual users’ machines and reducing inroads to the network while not severely restricting user functionality.”
And indeed, it was also found that the removal of admin rights could mitigate 80% of all critical Microsoft vulnerabilities reported in 2017, as well as 95% of critical vulnerabilities found in Microsoft browsers and 60% of critical vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office products (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Visio, Publisher and others).
“Despite the continued rise in vulnerabilities impacting Microsoft software, there are actions that enterprises can take to ensure that they’re protected without sacrificing productivity,” said Mark Austin, co-founder and CEO of Avecto. “The challenges organizations face to improve security have not changed, yet many are still unaware that by simply removing admin rights, the risk of so many threats can be mitigated.”