Slave to the Rythm

Forget patch Wednesday, Microsoft prefers first Tuesday.

Wave goodbye to patch Wednesday, Microsoft has conceded that even with the best intentions, asking businesses to patch their systems on a weekly basis is too much too expect.

This news comes a week after Steve Ballmer announced a new initiative from the company, which will see Microsoft developing new ‘safety technologies’, to be first delivered in Windows XP (Service Pack 2) SP2 and designed better protect its customers from the growing threat of malicious attack.

Reeling from the barrage of criticism following the damage caused by Blaster, Sobig-F, Welchia and Swen, Microsoft will soon introduce security enhancements designed to improve the resilience of its products whether they have been patched or not. This however will not be an instantaneous solution to a growing problem and the new Service Packs will trickle out from Redmond between now and the summer of 2004.

Microsoft has also recognised that the way it manages its security bulletins requires changes, realising that the problems for the customer invariably begin once vulnerability has been identified by the company. Businesses are now demanding a much better risk assessment from the company, one capable of presenting the very worst case scenario, in what might be described as a “drop everything’ warning for critical security updates. As a result, we are now going to see the company stressing the importance of patch application rather than expecting applause for patch development in the hope that this measure will improve uptake and narrow the period of exposure faced by business.

Is this news something to cheer about, replacing ‘Patch Wednesday’ with ‘First Tuesday’? The answer should be yes, after all if the information security process can’t get any worse, then there’s always hope that it might become better with a different strategy. However, if we read between the lines, this is a commitment to better processes and not a solution to a broader problem which remains largely insoluble this side of 2005. Trustworthy Computing, the sequel, is a start but rather like the movie Star Wars it could run on for ever and some might describe last week’s announcement by Ballmer as just another Jedi mind trick.

Personally, I believe ‘Patch Tuesday’ represents a good start because experience shows that where once a week sounded like a good idea at the beginning, once a month with Microsoft is more than enough for most of us.


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