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Opinion: Dog Days of September?

It's looking like September may be a replay of August, with nearly identical threats ready to swamp IT. Hopefully this time, the painful experiences of last month will help us avoid another IT catastrophe.

The new threats are variations on the same ones that the U.K.-based digital risk firm mi2g says made August the most costly month ever for malware damage. The combination of the DCOM RPC flaw in Windows exploited by MS Blast and the mass-mailing worm Sobig.F combined for an estimated $32.8 billion in economic damages, according to mi2g. The firm attributed most of that, $29.7 billion, to Sobig, which flooded corporate e-mail systems and user inboxes with spam-like, virus-bearing messages.

While the MS Blaster worm prodded most organizations into getting up to date on the MS03-026 patch that protects Windows against the DCOM RPC flaw, that patch no longer provides enough protection. Microsoft revealed last week that the flaw is much broader than its security team originally thought. A new security bulletin, MS03-039, patches several additional avenues for worm writers to automatically take control of remote systems. If you haven't already jumped on this patch, I can't urge you strongly enough to drop whatever you're doing and start testing it.

One significant thing to note is a new tool with MS03-039 for scanning networks to make sure all the computers on it have the patch. In some cases, the scanning tool Microsoft prepared for MS03-026 lists computers patched with the more recent MS03-039 patch as still vulnerable. Be sure to replace the new scanner for the old one, so you're not rejecting systems that are actually safer than what you're checking for.

We had 25 or 26 days between the availability of MS03-026 and the emergence of the Blaster worm, an unusually long time considering the juiciness of the vulnerability. We're currently on day five for the availability of this new patch for an equally juicy problem. This is a race that you have to win.

Microsoft's new patch can be found here:
www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS03-039.asp.

Sept. 10 was a good day for most e-mail administrators and many of us with highly public e-mail addresses. The intolerable flood of Sobig.F e-mails finally tapered off last week as the mass-mailing worm hit its automatic shut-off date for seeking out new victim systems. But it's an ominous break. All year, a new Sobig variant has quickly followed the suicide date of the last variant. You'll probably get news of the next Sobig variant when your e-mail server spikes, but keep updating your anti-virus software anyway just in case your vendor gives you half a step this time. We can always hope.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.