Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday, Windows Phone 7 Talk Dominated Week

Aug 15th, 2010 | By technologynews | Category: Technology

Microsoft had its biggest-ever patch on Tuesday, Aug. 10 and issued 14 new
security bulletins. Eight of those were rated “critical,” of which
four addressed high-priority vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office, Microsoft .NET
Framework, Microsoft Silverlight, Microsoft’s MPEG Layer-3 audio codecs, and
the Cinepak Codec used by Windows Media Player.

And they say August is a slow month in the technology sector.

Of the six noncritical bulletins, which fixed vulnerabilities in Microsoft
Windows and Office, all were rated “important.” However, the
vulnerabilities behind nearly all 14 bulletins apparently needed some time and
effort on the cyber-criminal’s part to transform into an exploit.

“This is consistent with what we have seen in recent months, with the
attack using drive-by-based malware to exploit the target,” said Rapid7
security researcher Josh Abraham
. “No need to panic right now, but be
sure to start watching the mailing list regarding exploits for MS10-054.”

That
bulletin addresses an SMB protocol pool overflow vulnerability that could be of
particular interest to larger businesses
. “Not only does it give an
attacker system-level access to a compromised SMB server,” said Joshua
Talbot, security intelligence manager of Symantec Security Response, “but
the vulnerability occurs before authentication is required from computers
contacting the server. This means any system allowing remote access and not
protected by a firewall is at risk.”

File and print-sharing services, including SMB servers, should not be open
to the Internet. However, Talbot added, “such services are often
unprotected from neighboring systems on local networks.”

Security was one of many points argued on Microsoft’s
new “PC vs. Mac” Website
, which took a more measured position on
the ages-old rivalry than some of Apple’s and Microsoft’s advertising over the
past few years.

On the Website, Microsoft makes arguments similar to the ones that, however
ironically, Apple previously deployed against Windows Vista and in favor of
Macs: in particular, that Windows 7 “was designed to make it simpler to do
the tasks you do every day,” and that it provides a variety of multimedia
options.

However, in its drive to show PCs in the best-possible light, Microsoft also
makes arguments far more subjective. “While some may say Macs are easy,
the reality is that they can come with a learning curve,” insists one
section. “PCs running Windows 7 look and work more like the computers
you’re familiar with, so you can get up and running quickly.”

Of course, that all depends on the userand technically speaking, all new
software, including Windows 7, comes with a learning curve of some sort. Later
on the Website, Microsoft also asserts that “Apple’s productivity suite
file formats won’t open in Microsoft Office on PCs,” while neglecting to
mention that the company sells a little piece of software called Office for
Mac.

Microsoft has sold some 175 million copies of Windows 7 since the operating
system’s October 2009 release, according to Bill Koefoed, Microsoft’s general
manager of investor relations. During an Aug. 10 talk at the Oppenheimer Annual
Technology, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Boston,
Koefoed also re-emphasized Microsoft’s plans to move aggressively into the
smartphone and tablet PC spaces.

“I think we’re laser-focused on tablets as an emerging category,”
he told the audience. “Intel is going to come out with their “Oak
Trail” chip around the first of the year, and we think that’s going to
offer a lot of new capabilities. Whether it’s better usage of battery life and
the like, it’s going to really help move the category forward.”

In the wake of the Apple iPad’s enormous success, a number of other manufacturers
have explored how to best enter the tablet PC market. Dell began pre-sales of
its 5-inch Streak tablet on Aug. 12, the day before general availability;
Hewlett-Packard is widely expected to issue tablets loaded with its nearly
acquired Palm WebOS. Other companies have reportedly been exploring the
possibility of loading tablet PCs with Google Android, even as Microsoft begins
to push Windows 7 aggressively into the space.

During
Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in July
, Microsoft CEO
Steve Ballmer told a keynote audience that tablets represent “a terribly
important area for us” and that Microsoft would advance “a range of
Windows 7 slates.”

Koefoed also used his talk to emphasize Microsoft’s strategy with regard to
Windows Phone 7, the revamped smartphone operating system that the company
hopes will allow it to regain market-share from the Apple iPhone and Google
Android devices.

The key to Windows Phone 7′s broader appeal, Koefoed argued, will be its
simultaneous appeal to both the business and consumer segments. The platform is
due for rollout on a number of partner devices by the end of the calendar year.

“We’ve taken a lot of the enterprise tools and enterprise capabilities
that we know that people are using, that people have been using on our Windows
Mobile platforms historically, and adding consumer capabilities,” he said.
Those capabilities apparently include Facebook, Xbox Live, and Zune
integration.

Presumably, Microsoft is also working on making the phones as secure as
possible.

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