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Archive for February, 2013

February's Patch Tuesday Super-Patch Delivers Security, Driver Fixes

February’s Patch Tuesday Super-Patch Delivers Security, Driver Fixes

Microsoft released a king-sized patch on February 12 that delivers a wide range of security and driver updates to a number of supported Microsoft OS products. The super-patch, which repaired a hefty 57 vulnerabilities, was described in 12 security bulletins issued by the company. The patches must be applied to operating systems ranging from Windows XP to Windows 8.

57 Varieties of Threats Addressed

Security analysts have noted that Microsoft has recently released a number of major patches to its operating systems, and many of the patches have affected multiple OS variations. This implies that the security problems being addressed by the updates are widespread and potentially very serious.

The patches released on Tuesday include band-aids for both Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash. Microsoft released 14 separate fixes for all versions of IE, and Adobe released repairs for its Flash and Shockwave products. Successful exploitation of the vulnerabilities involved would allow a third-party to take administrative control of a compromised computer.

In addition to patches for IE, Flash and Shockwave, the update also includes patches for Oracle’s Outside In for Exchange users, although the company has not yet addressed other critical Exchange issues.

The most critical vulnerability includes a vector markup language exploit that could permit remote code execution. Another exploit that affects all currently supported versions of Microsoft operating systems is described as a kernel mode driver vulnerability that will permit remote code execution on compromised computers.

In addition, Microsoft supplied a repair for Windows Server that could allow denial-of-service attacks using the server’s file sharing capabilities. Another patch fixes a TCP vulnerability that affects all Microsoft operating systems from Vista forward. The remaining major fixes address elevation-of-privilege issues that may or may not allow third-party administrative control.

While the number of fixes seems high, and downloading and installing the patches will take significant time, Microsoft recommends that vulnerable systems be patched immediately. Industry analysts note that a number of known critical issues still remain unresolved, and they expect Microsoft to issue another round of critical patches in the near future.

While you’re patching your computer, it’s good to take a moment to verify that all of your hardware drivers are up-to-date. If you find newer drivers for your installed hardware, take a moment to download and install those too. In the long run, driver management is critical to the proper operation of your computer. To automate your driver management, consider downloading and installing Driver Detective. Driver Detective will download, install, back up and verify the proper operation of your installed drivers as often as you like. You’ll save time and effort, and you’ll always have the most up-to-date drivers for your computer.

Photo Credit: Patrick Hoesly, via Flickr

Microsoft Vista Rides Slowly Into The Sunset

Microsoft Vista Rides Slowly Into The Sunset

Microsoft Vista has turned 6 years old, but there weren’t many celebrations. In fact, the much-maligned operating system, with all of its notable device driver problems, has lost nearly ¾ of its peak installed user base. Currently, fewer than 6% of desktops run Windows Vista, according to Microsoft, and the company is OK with that.

Windows Driver Model Was OS’s Biggest Shift

Windows Vista was practically doomed from the start, having been announced, delayed, abandoned and resurrected, all while prospective users waited and examined other OS options. First anticipated in 2004, Vista didn’t actually hit the market until 2007 and was replaced in 2009 by Windows 7.

While the “damage” to Vista’s reputation had been done, the OS did lay the groundwork for Windows 7, which Microsoft says is operating on about 60% of the world’s business desktops today. Architecturally, Windows 7 isn’t all that different from Vista, but there are some significant changes that make Windows 7 a lot more palatable to the business community.

Some of the OS’s biggest shortcomings were its inability to play nice with Microsoft’s older Server 2003 product, something that often eliminated it as an upgrade contender in the office. Once Microsoft enhanced the Server 2008 release, pairing it with Windows 7 seemed like a natural.

The other major problem for both business and home users was the unavailability of Windows Vista drivers for a wide range of both new and older hardware. The lack of drivers and issues with driver compatibility made it difficult (and expensive) for many users to justify spending the extra cash on upgrading to Windows Vista.

Microsoft handled the release of Windows 7 a bit differently, however, working to ensure that hardware drivers were available for a wide range of new and existing hardware. In the nearly three years between the Windows Vista release and the Windows 7 release, hardware manufacturers had plenty of time to build, test and release compatible drivers for their hardware lines.

It also helped that Windows 7 was built on the same architecture that Windows Vista was, so those manufacturers that had made the investment in developing new drivers wouldn’t see their efforts go to waste. That investment has also paid off for the most part with Windows 8. Microsoft has moved to a different print architecture, which should make the seemingly endless search for printer drivers a thing of the past. Assuming the print driver environment pans out, Microsoft may adopt the approach for other hardware-based functions in the future.

While Vista never really lived up to its promise, it did pave the way for a viable replacement for the rock-steady Windows XP version of the Windows OS.

Photo Credit: cpchannel, via Flickr