Microsoft Gives a Heads-Up on Security Fixes

By Larry Seltzer  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

In a new policy that aims to help customers plan for deploying updates, the company will summarize fixes, severity and other major points three days prior to the release of details and patches.

In its first use of a new policy on security-update disclosure, Microsoft on Wednesday announced that next week's scheduled security updates for the month of November will consist of a single fix for ISA Server.

The new Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification is the first example of a new monthly practice the company announced Thursday.

Three business days prior to the regularly scheduled release of security notifications and updates to products, the company will release an advance notification that provides minimal details designed to help customers plan for the deployment of updates. Links to the information will be posted on the Technet Security page.

The November disclosure discusses a single fix affecting Microsoft ISA (Internet Security and Acceleration) Server. It rates the severity of the bug it fixes as "important" rather than the more serious "critical," and says the update may require a restart of the server.

Finally, it notes that this information may change before it is fully disclosed because testing of the fix may still be progressing.

The network administrator for one Microsoft customer—the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism—said the new policy will help improve the base of secured computers.

"As a member of the Microsoft Essential Support program, we receive regular, and sometimes early, information from Microsoft regarding security issues," said Bernie Robichau, the South Carolina department's network administrator and security officer. "As a result, we have learned that more communication is always better.

Click here to read about Microsoft's October patch day, when the company released a flurry of fixes for Internet Explorer and other products.

"Some recent Microsoft vulnerabilities pose a great risk, and it often takes a few days of deliberate planning to assure proper patch distribution—especially when a vulnerability affects more than one product [which was the case with the recent GDI JPG vulnerabilities]," Robichau said.

"Anything Microsoft can do to inform users about a pending patch release will only help improve the base of secured computers when a vulnerability is exploited and starts to spread," he said. "Offering this service to all users will be a welcome addition to the Microsoft security strategy, I'm sure."

Tom Stachowiak, a Windows XP SP2 (Service Pack 2) beta tester, also welcomed the advance notice.

"I think this is great thing. The people that take their security seriously will be able to prepare their systems and their users for downtime ahead of time," Stachowiak said.

"This could save tons of time, as possible implications could be looked for in terms of compatible firewall adjustment."

The new policy was announced in a keynote address at the RSA Conference Europe by Rich Kaplan, corporate vice president of Microsoft's security business and technology unit.

In December, the company will provide a way for customers to sign up to receive advance bulletin notifications via e-mail.

Editor's Note: Mary Jo Foley of Microsoft Watch provided additional reporting for this story.

Check out eWEEK.com's for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's Weblog.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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