Packet Rat: Rat scurries to survive patch madness

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

The Rat has started to plan his workweek like a five-day package tour of systems hell.

He's leaving plenty of room on the old handheld calendar for side trips to Spamville Web Services Limbo. At least one thing however, now must be marked as a permanent, recurring event.

If it's the second Tuesday of the month, it's Microsoft Patch Day.

'Here we go again,' sighed the wired one as he watched the latest set of Microsoft Corp. security patches roll onto the Windows Update site. One, two, three, four critical sets of patches appeared. Then he began trying to download and queue them for deployment. And he tried. And tried.

Clearly, the whiskered one was not alone in his troubles. Microsoft admitted to performance slowdowns because of massive worldwide demand for new patches.

'So, they were surprised that users would be in a hurry to get themselves patched?' the Rat wondered.

Well, apparently so. The latest wad of bug fixes was more than even the software giant's bandwidth could handle. The Rat and his minions spent hours pulling down the four sets of patches, along with 20 individual vulnerability patches. Some of the patches would start to download, then jam up.

The massive fix package came in part from Microsoft's decision to release security patches only once a month. After the company drew criticism for releasing patches too frequently, it decided to schedule bulk releases for the second Tuesday of every month.

Two dozen patches'that was more than the cyberrodent has slapped onto the blue jeans he's been nursing along since college. 'And those took less time to install,' he whined.

Even the patches apparently needed patches. According to some packets the wirebiter has intercepted from other sysadmins, the patch that fixes the potential security hole in the Secure Sockets Layer implementation on some Windows systems shuts SSL down entirely'unless the patch is uninstalled.

That's not good news because the first exploit already in the wild for the vulnerabilities announced this month goes after that very hole.

The SSL Bomb denial-of-service attack does basically what the patch has done to some systems: It makes systems running Windows 2000 and XP stop accepting SSL packets, and it can cause systems running the more secure Windows 2003 Server to reboot.

'Now, that's secure,' the rodent ranted.

He can't wait to see what fresh hell is in store for him next month. In fact, he's picked an alternative activity for the next second Tuesday that will keep him from driving his underlings under their desks with his random outbursts.

'Yep, that's right,' he said over the phone as he updated his calendar. 'I'd like to schedule that root canal I've been putting off.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in
cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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