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Microsoft sharpens security tools

Microsoft plans to release updated versions of its SUS and Baseline Security Analyzer tools. These freebies are designed to help admins get a better handle on the generous supply of security patches and fixes that come down from "Mount Redmond."

SAN FRANCISCO -- IT administrators will soon get new versions of existing Windows management tools to help them analyze security patches and distribute them more widely than is currently possible.

At the RSA Conference 2003 this week, Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Microsoft's security business unit, said that the company will release version 2 of Software Update Services (SUS 2.0) and version 1.2 of Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer later in 2003.

The current version of SUS lets administrators install updates to Windows 2000 and 2003 servers as well as Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Professional workstations. SUS 2.0 will expand beyond Windows to include Office and all of the Windows server system platforms, company executives said.

Baseline Security Analyzer is a graphical interface that helps administrators scan their systems to see which critical updates are already applied. Baseline Security Analyzer 1.2 will make it easier for administrators to identify systems that are lacking certain patches on these servers. Both programs are free.

Rod Trent, president of, a site where administrators share tips and information on managing Windows, said that customers have been asking Microsoft to expand the capabilities of both tools.

Administrators will welcome the help patching their operating systems and applications, agreed Richard Ptak, president of Ptak & Associates Inc., a consulting firm in Amherst, N.H.

"From an administrator's perspective, the more [Microsoft] can do in terms of automated implementation for patches and updates, the better," he said.

Ptak also said that, although it is good that Microsoft is improving its fix-it programs, the company still must ship better products that don't rely on SUS and Baseline Security Analyzer.

"There's barely a week that goes by that you don't hear about some big security hole or bug fix," he said.

Microsoft is aware that patch management is a huge task for administrators. "Patch management is very much a reality," Nash said during his keynote.


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Click here to ask Rod Trent a question about patches.

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