Article

Microsoft eats crow to protect users

John Hogan

If the folks at Microsoft responsible for Windows security aren't jumping out of their office windows, it's probably because those windows are secured, a quality they must desperately wish their operating system possessed.

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OK, maybe that's a cheap shot, but the Lovsan, Sobig-F and Nachi worms that spread like wildfire this week showed that the hole left open in the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) protocol of Windows was big enough to drive a truckload of worms through.

In fairness to Microsoft, the software maker has been doing everything in its power to fix this mess, including eating crow. When Lovsan went after Microsoft's Web site, Redmond permanently shuttered its Windows Update page, swallowed hard and changed its domain name system (DNS) settings so requests for its Web pages are now handled by Akamai's Linux-based caching system.

That must have been an agonizing corporate decision, given that Microsoft has repeatedly said Linux isn't mature enough for the enterprise, and knowing that open-source advocates would get some serious mileage out of this.

One idea that Microsoft hopes will get some mileage is a plan it floated this week to offer a service that automatically updates Windows for its users. No more having to manually

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get fixes and apply them. Microsoft would do it for you. Interestingly, this is being pitched as an opt-out service rather than one you could sign up for if you're interested. The only problem is that IT administrators are a notoriously skeptical bunch. Many loathe patches in the first place because they often have to fix things that fixes break. The idea that large numbers of admins are going to let Microsoft automatically slap a few patches on their systems is a shaky one indeed.

News of the automatic update plan coincides with a new collaboration between Microsoft and Electronic Data Systems. EDS announced this week that it is nearly ready to launch a service for remotely managing desktop computers called Consistent Office Environment. Microsoft contributed a key piece of technology to the effort -- "zero touch" -- that helps to remotely deploy upgrades and other Windows tasks.

For those early adopters looking for Windows Server 2003 fixes, the wait won't be too much longer. This week, Microsoft posted some scant details about the first service pack for the software. Look for this service pack to come out early in 2004.

And for those early, early adopters, there's some new word on Longhorn. InternetNews.com quoted an analyst from its sister company, Jupiter Research, saying that the next version of Windows won't make its debut until 2006. Analyst Joe Wilcox said the delay is likely because Microsoft is trying to integrate Longhorn with all of its products, including the new Windows Future Storage (WinFS) file system.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Microsoft using Linux to protect its own Web site

Patching, updating keep Nachi at bay

Microsoft considers automating updates

Sobig-F reaching epidemic proportions

Windows Server 2003 service pack timeframe released

Analyst: No Longhorn before 2006

Desktop service adds to utility computing push


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