First Point of Security: Apply Those Patches!

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Earlier I pointed out the importance of making sure you remain up-to-date on patches, as recommended by Kevin Prince at our Network Security Edge site. My colleague here at IT Business Edge, Paul Mah, put out a reminder that Tuesday is Patch Day for Microsoft: a bumper crop of patches in fact, as Mah wrote:

Microsoft is due to release 13 bulletins for February's Patch Tuesday that address 26 different vulnerabilities in its software products. In fact, five of them carry the maximum "critical" rating, with another seven rated as important. The final bulletin has been rated as moderate. This bumper crop of 13 bulletins ties the record for the most security updates released in October 2009.

This particular batch of patches include fixing a 17-year-old bug first found in Windows NT 3.1. Patches on old operating systems are unusual, however, as a ComputerWorld article by Gregg Keizer pointed out. Deadlines for support for Windows 2000, XP, and Vista are coming up on deadlines for support on certain versions. Keiser wrote:

Microsoft's policy is to support a Windows RTM (release to manufacturing) build for at least 24 months after the release of a first service pack, and to support any service pack for the same length of time when it's superseded by a follow-up. Windows XP SP2, the popular 2004 update that beefed up the security of the under-attack OS, will also exit support July 13. To continue receiving bug patches, users must upgrade to XP SP3, the May 2008 update.

XP SP2 is still the OS of choice for many Microsoft users -- either because people don't know to upgrade to Service Pack 3 or because it is something that gets put on the back burner or because users feel more comfortable with what they already have and don't see the need to "upgrade." But again it is a matter of keeping your computer protected from vulnerabilities, so keeping up-to-date on that first point of security -- current patches -- is vital to keeping your computer and its data safe.