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Microsoft eases system administrator's security woes

Cliff Saran
Microsoft has released new software designed to simplify rolling out security patches for Windows and other products.

Stuart Okin, Microsoft UK's chief security officer, said the new tool, Software Update Server, provides administrators with a way to test the impact of security updates on their IT systems.

Microsoft provided an Automatic Update in Windows XP, which downloaded and installed security patches without the intervention of users.

Okin said this was appropriate for home users, but added: "Most corporates do not want end users downloading the patches themselves."

Software Update Server, will allow system administration would be able to check how a security patch affected a user's PC system, before rolling out the patch, said Okin.

Simon Moores, chairman of the Microsoft Forums, an independent association supporting users of Microsoft software, said: "Anything Microsoft does to improve the way users receive updates has my vote."

Commenting on the new tool, Tony Lock, senior analyst at Bloor Research, said: "Microsoft has a reputation for generating a large number of software updates and patches."

Managing these updates, he said, was a problem for most corporate users. "An innocuous software patch can change Windows [DLL] files which could adversely affect an unrelated piece of software," said Lock.

The new tool, he added, would help users check their desktop PCs, but for it to be fully effective they would also need to run a very tight software management policy with a fixed desktop environment.

Unfortunately, said Lock, "Most businesses do not have this level of control for the desktop environment."

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