With its February security patches now two weeks away, Microsoft is warning of another critical flaw in its Office software. This time Excel is the target. Microsoft confirmed late Friday that its spreadsheet software is vulnerable to a new attack, and said that the problem may affect other Office software as well. The software giant is investigating reports that the flaw is being used by criminals in "very limited," attacks, according to a Microsoft security advisory. This latest flaw affects Microsoft Office 2000, Microsoft Office XP, Microsoft Office 2003, and Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac.
Over the past year hackers have increasingly focused on Office applications as a security hole and the attacks based on these flaws are often the same: Criminals send an e-mail that appears legitimate, and trick unsuspecting users into opening a maliciously encoded document. Once the document is opened, attackers are able to install unauthorized software on the victim's system.