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Risk

4/26/2010
11:18 AM
Keith Ferrell
Keith Ferrell
Commentary
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McAfee's Mess, SEC's Sex Problem And What SMBs Can Learn From Each

Last week's McAfee release of a virus def file that didn't play well (to say the least!) with Windows XP SP3, along with unrelated revelations about the amount of pornsurfing going on at the SEC offers the chance to think a little bit about each problem -- and what your business has done and can do to avoid getting tagged by similar ones.

Last week's McAfee release of a virus def file that didn't play well (to say the least!) with Windows XP SP3, along with unrelated revelations about the amount of pornsurfing going on at the SEC offers the chance to think a little bit about each problem -- and what your business has done and can do to avoid getting tagged by similar ones.Anti-virus company McAfee's release of a virus definition that crashed Windows XP SP3 systems or sent them reboot cycling as a result of falsely identifying a critical Windows file as malware, was, according to a company FAQ, the result of flawed QA processes.

In other words, before the file -- which is updated daily for corporate customers -- was sent to customers, whatever QA tests it passed or was given, XP SP3 compatibility evidently wasn't among them.

This was bad -- thousands, maybe tens of thousands of systems were affected including, according to reports, not just office systems but also critical hospital computers.

So how could this have been avoided -- and more to the point, how do you keep something like this from happening to your business?

Obviously, as McAfee has acknowledged, the vendor's QA process and thoroughness must be addressed.

But that begs at least a bit of the question -- those companies receiving daily updates from a vendor, in this case McAfee, have every reason to believe that the updates are in good order, fully tested for problems -- and they had no reason to think otherwise until the bad file got out.

Which means, I think, that you should at least consider running updates on a testbed first, before releasing to your critical business systems.

Problem is, that's time-consuming -- and expensive; the only systems affected were XP SP3 systems, but a thorough testbed platform would have to include every iteration of the systems your business runs. Thorough -- but impractical for some and maybe maybe most of us.

The other approach worth considering is to delay or defer updates, perhaps avoiding auto-updates, keeping an eye on field reports, blogs, Twitter feeds and the like for news of any problems.

That one requires some real discipline -- not running auto-update puts the burden and the onus on your and your people to make sure the updates, once they're vetted in the wild, actually get installed.

And now for something completely kinky...

The not entirely new news that SEC employees were surfing porn, a lot of porn, re-grabbed the headlines last week, with one employee's admission of up to eight hours a day of pornsurfing getting much of the attention.

The lesson here is one you already know, and has less to do with porn than with management -- anybody who has an employee spending eight hours in a single day doing something not work related has bigger managerial problems than the admittedly problematic presence of porn on business (or in this case government) machines.

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