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Perimeter

10/15/2009
02:25 PM
Wolfgang Kandek
Wolfgang Kandek
Commentary
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The Priority Patches From This Month's Batch

Tuesday's patch releases by Microsoft and Adobe are creating plenty of work for IT administrators -- quite possibly involving multiple groups with further coordination and meetings. But there are two patches that IT administrators should be focusing on to roll out quickly:

Tuesday's patch releases by Microsoft and Adobe are creating plenty of work for IT administrators -- quite possibly involving multiple groups with further coordination and meetings. But there are two patches that IT administrators should be focusing on to roll out quickly:1. MS09-054: The vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer can be used to take full control over the machine and are exploitable without user interaction. This makes them extremely attractive to attackers, who are analyzing and reverse-engineering the patches as we speak. Once an exploit is developed and tested, it will get planted on Websites to infect end users. Attackers run their own sites and lure users to them via e-mail or Twitter spam, but increasingly we see attackers use third party, non-malicious Websites that they subvert by exploiting configuration errors or vulnerabilities in the Website management code, such as SQL injection.

2. APS09-015: Adobe Reader has seen increased focus over the last six months, as this application is widely installed and has a number of vulnerabilities that allow the attacker to take full control over the machine. (see Microsoft Security Intelligence Report 2009: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/newsroom/security/factsheets/04-08SIRv6FS.mspx and F-Secure statistics: http://www.f-secure.com/weblog/archives/00001676.html).

Unfortunately, IT administrators have not paid the same type of attention to patching Adobe software: statistics show that Adobe Reader is being patched over four times slower than operating system vulnerabilities of similar criticality, even with the recent zero-day vulnerabilities (three so far in 2009), and despite the increased attention from the media.

IT administrators can overcome resistance to a swift rollout by developing a structured installation plan. A successful example from one of our enterprise customers starts by installing patches first on one percent of the impacted machines. These are considered early adopters that will give feedback if they see anything unusual. Two days later, the patch is applied to 10 percent of the machines, and another two days later, the patch goes out to all machines in scope.

After one week of patching, a verification process is started and the IT team goes after machines that have not installed the required patches yet. They were able to able to implement this patching program by mapping their machines and networks, working with the system owners to determine valid exceptions and automating the auditing, patching, and verification processes. Tools for the mapping, patching, and verification processes are easily available ranging from open-source supported projects, to enterprise software (i.e. installed and managed locally) to SaaS offerings. They are mature and well-tested and are proven to be able to deal with even large multi-national networks. --As the CTO for Qualys, Wolfgang Kandek is responsible for product direction and all operational aspects of the QualysGuard platform and its infrastructure. Wolfgang has over 20 years of experience in developing and managing information systems. His focus has been on Unix-based server architectures and application delivery through the Internet. Wolfgang provides the latest commentary on his blog: laws.qualys.com and also publishes his Patch Tuesday commentary to the QualysGuard channel: http://www.youtube.com/QualysGuard. He is a frequent source in business and trade media and speaks at industry conferences around the world, most recently at RSA 2009.

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