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updated 12/29/2011 1:46:46 PM ET 2011-12-29T18:46:46

 

Microsoft released an emergency security update today (Dec. 29) to fix critical flaws in all versions of Windows.

Unlike most Microsoft security offerings, this out-of-band update consists of just one bulletin, addressing Windows bugs that could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges on infected systems and to propagate a worm without the compromised user's knowledge.

The bulletin addresses four flaws that exist in all versions of Windows, including XP, Vista and Windows 7, as well as Windows Server 2008 and 2003.

The emergency bulletin, released at 10:00 a.m. (Pacific Time), can be downloaded for free at Microsoft's website.

To make sure your computer runs smoothly and stays out of malware trouble, it's important to keep it outfitted with up-to-date anti-virus software, which can help detect and eliminate threats before they have a chance to damage your system. For a list of the best anti-virus software, click here.

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