While many eyes were on Google's $1 million hacker contest this week that led to the company rapidly releasing a new version of its Chrome browser to address a vulnerability exploited in the event, IT admins are getting ready for Microsoft's next Patch Tuesday. Meanwhile, Adobe has introduced a new security Relevant Products/Services rating system.

Let's start with Microsoft. Redmond gave IT admins a heads up with the release of its Advanced Notification for March's Patch Tuesday. In total, there are six bulletins,and they affect all versions of Windows, as well as Visual Studio and Expression Design. One flaw in Windows is rated "critical," one is "moderate" and the other four are "important."

"Bulletin 1 will be the most important. It is critical-rated Remote Code Execution and is applicable in all versions of Windows from XP to the latest Win 7 and Server 2008R2," said Wolfgang Kandek, CTO at Qualys. "The other Remote Code Execution vulnerability is in Bulletin 5 and is rated important because opening a malicious file is required for Expression Design, an application competing with Adobe's graphics tools."

Get Ready to Reboot

Although the number of patches in this month's release is relatively low, the pain point may come in the rebooting. Three of the six bulletins require a restart as part of the installation process, and the other three may require a restart.

"Organizations will have to reboot after applying the critical patch, which indicates that it is fix for a kernel level bug," said Marcus Carey, a security researcher at Rapid7. "There are two important bulletins that affect the Windows family as well."

Cary pointed to Bulletin 6 as one of them. Labeled as moderate, Bulletin 6 only affects Windows operating systems post-Windows 2003 Server. This means Bulletin 6 addresses issues that were introduced with Windows Vista. Bulletin 4 affects Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Service Pack 1, Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, and Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1. This bulletin addresses a Visual Studio flaw that can result in a privilege escalation.

Adobe-Related Messes

Bulletin 5 addresses remote code execution in Microsoft Expression Design. Carey said this issue is probably related to malicious file formats that could result in a compromise of a system running the software. The good news, he said, is the Microsoft Expression Design bulletin will affect a small number of consumers and organizations because of the limited distribution of the product.

Speaking of Adobe, the company released earlier this week a new version of its Flash player that addresses two vulnerabilities found by Google security engineers Fermin Serna and Tavis Ormandy.

"In this release they used for the first time their new 'Priority' mechanism, which gives users some guidance regarding the urgency of applying patches," Kandek explains. "Priority 1 patches should be applied within 72 hours, Priority 2 within 30 days, and Priority 3 is left to the user. This particular Flash release is rated Priority 2 -- fix within 30 days, but I would suggest fixing it as quickly as possible as detailed information will become available soon." Google updated its Chrome Web browser after the browser was hacked twice at hacking contests this week at the annual CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver. Google offers up to $1 million in prizes for hackers successfully exploiting security flaws in software.