Researcher sees Patch Tuesday 'nightmare'

Usual rules may not apply, given volume and complexity of Microsoft security update

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Corporate security and network administrators face a "nightmare" task just trying to figure out what to patch and what to let slide after Microsoft issued its biggest-ever batch of updates today, researchers argued.

"This is the biggest number of bulletins," said Jason Miller, the security and data team manager for patch management vendor Shavlik Technologies. "It's also the biggest number of individual patches."

The bottom line, said Miller: "This is an administrative nightmare, just trying to get a good grasp of what's out there."

Wolfgang Kandek, the chief technology officer at Qualys, agreed. "This is a huge release," said Kandek. "No one will be untouched."

Today's security updates from Microsoft were unprecedented, with 13 separate bulletins that quashed 34 vulnerabilities. Both were records for the company since it began delivering monthly updates six years ago.

Miller and Kandek noted that several of the security bulletins were extraordinarily complex, which will only complicate the chore of deciding what to patch immediately, and what can wait.

"Just focus on MS09-062," said Miller, speaking of the bulletin that patched eight different bugs in the GDI+ (Graphics Device Interface) component within Windows. "The sheer number of products listed as affected is immense."

Microsoft acknowledged that the GDI+ patches affected Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003, Server 2008, Internet Explorer (IE), .NET Framework, all supported editions of Office, SQL Server, Visual Studio and Forefront Client Security.

"GDI touches everything," said Kandek. "And it's a complicated component."

"We're talking about an older technology that's been around for awhile," added Miller, referring to the familiarity hackers have with GDI, and thus the increased likelihood that they will be able to craft exploits for the bugs Microsoft revealed today. "The vulnerabilities affect a lot of different file formats, including Office. If you're running anything made by Microsoft, you're probably going to be affected by this one."

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