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Risk

9/7/2008
03:44 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
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Patch Tuesday: Potentially Massive Windows XP, Vista Update Ahead

On Tuesday, Microsoft will release four security fixes as part of its monthly patch update cycle. There are four patches slated for release and all are rated as critical. Yet, one of the bulletins strikes me as unusually vague. Is this cause for alarm?

On Tuesday, Microsoft will release four security fixes as part of its monthly patch update cycle. There are four patches slated for release and all are rated as critical. Yet, one of the bulletins strikes me as unusually vague. Is this cause for alarm?The four bulletins, according to Microsoft's TechNet advanced security bulletin notification, and covered previously by Tom Claburn here, include four critical fixes (because all enable the remote execution of attack code) within Windows Media Player, Windows, Windows Media Encoder Bulletin, and MS Office Bulletin.

It looks like a number of media vulnerabilities are going to be fixed, but it's the Windows Bulletin that has me vexed. According to the advance notice, this bulletin affects not only Microsoft Windows (which versions, please?), but also Internet Explorer, .Net Framework, Office, SQL Server, and Visual Studio.

Wow, that's not exactly parsing down the affected software in a way that's making it easy for admins to prepare their plan of attack for the patch update. Which, by the way, was one of the major points of Patch Tuesday to begin with.

After a little search for answers I found that I wasn't the only one confused. This is from this Computerworld story:

The one bulletin labeled "Windows" actually affects more than the operating system; it also affects Internet Explorer, .Net Framework, Office, SQL Server, and Visual Studio. The kitchen-sink approach to the bulletin caught Storms off-guard. "I'm confused," he [Edit: Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security Inc.] admitted, and wondered whether it reflects a change in how Microsoft will outline security updates or a special case.

Well, if Storms is confused, I don't feel so bad about my own uncertainty. I'm in good company. Storms went on to explain that he believes this vague notice is a special case:

"We've had something similar [Edit: in the past], I think, and when we saw the details the next week, it all made sense," he said, of the wide range of applications and operating systems called out by that security bulletin.

I'm sure the security bulletin will make sense next week. But the idea of the advance security patch notice was to help security and operation teams better plan for how they'll patch the following week. This obscurity on what exactly the impact is certainly isn't in line with that. That's why I hope this notice is an outliner, and we don't see too much of this going forward.

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