MS users get first taste of monthly patching plan

MS users get first taste of monthly patching plan

Microsoft has released seven patches - five of them for critical vulnerabilities - as part of its recently announced plan to move to a monthly security update schedule.

Five of the patches are for flaws in Windows, and two are for flaws in Exchange Server.

The fact that users now had to deal with several patches at once was "disappointing", said Edward York, chief technology officer at 724, an application service provider in Lompoc, California.

"I was pretty upset yesterday when I saw all those patches come out at once," York said. "But when I sit down and think about it, it's probably not all that bad. It will probably be quicker for me to manage my systems [uding a monthly schedule] instead of having to update two or three times a month."

"It's nice to get the patches as a cluster of patches instead of one patch at a time,"network systems analyst at Duke University Health System, Tim Rice, said.

The hospital uses an automated patching tool from BigFix to deploy patches to all 5600 systems on its network, Rice said. Getting multiple patches at the same time would make patch testing easier.

A new option for uninstalling patches that appears along with the security bulletin was also useful, he said.

The University of Texas at Dallas was using Microsoft's automated Software Update Service to deploy patches, so moving to a monthly schedule wouldn't make much difference, the university's adjunct information security officer, Paul Schmehl, said.

"Frankly, I don't think they're going to be able to strictly adhere to a monthly release schedule anyway," Schmehl said. With some serious patches, they wouldn't "have the option to wait until the next monthly release."

Of the vulnerabilities for which Microsoft released patches this week, three in particular were serious, editor of NTBugtraq and an analyst at TruSecure, Russ Cooper, said.

The most serious is a buffer-overrun flaw in Windows' Messenger Service. The feature has already been widely exploited to spam unprotected Internet-connected systems.

Another major flaw is in a Microsoft technology called Authenticode, which is used to verify the authenticity of downloadable software and applications -- such as a Macromedia player, for instance.

The flaw could allow attackers to download malicious ActiveX controls on a victim's computer under certain low-memory conditions, Cooper said.

The third serious flaw existed in the Internet Mail Service associated with Exchange Server. The flaw could result in denial-of-service attacks against vulnerable systems.

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