Microsoft issues first Windows 7 patches

But new OS afflicted by half as many bugs this month as Vista, a third as many as XP

Microsoft last week patched nine vulnerabilities, five marked "critical," in Windows 7, a move that will require users upgrading to the new operating system starting Thursday to download a security update to keep their PCs secure.

The patches were the first for Windows 7's final build, dubbed RTM for "release to manufacturing," that has been in some customers' hands, primarily enterprises with volume licensing agreements, since August.

Windows 7's patch count, however, was significantly less than either Windows Vista's, its immediate predecessor, or that of Windows XP, the eight-year-old operating system installed on the majority of systems worldwide.

An analysis by Computerworld of the massive Oct. 13 security update -- the largest by Microsoft since it started patching on a regular monthly schedule six year ago -- showed that Windows 7 was affected by nine of the 34 vulnerabilities, or 26% of the total. Its count of critical bugs -- the most serious as marked by Microsoft -- was five out of a possible 21, or 24%.

Windows Vista, meanwhile, was impacted by 19 of the 34 vulnerabilities, or 56% of the total, with 11 pegged critical, or 52% of the possible.

Windows XP was affected by the most vulnerabilities of all: 24 out of 34, or 71% of the total. Of the two-dozen bugs that needed patching in Windows XP, 18 were tagged as critical, or 86% of the total critical count.

The tallies indicated that, at least this month, Windows 7 was afflicted with about half as many vulnerabilities as was Vista, and about a third as many as was Windows XP. Its critical bug count followed the same pattern.

Those flaws that did affect Windows 7 were probably due to recycled code, said security experts. "The Windows 7 vulnerabilities are coming from its legacy code base," said Jason Miller, the security and data team manager for patch management vendor Shavlik Technologies.

In fact, none of the vulnerabilities patched last week were Windows 7-only flaws. Of the five security bulletins that affected the new OS, all five also impacted Vista and XP, and all but one had to be patched in the even-older Windows 2000.

The phenomenon of vulnerabilities in old code isn't new. Just months after Vista's launch, security researchers took Microsoft to task for overlooking a vulnerability in Windows' animated cursor in the brand-new operating system, even though was closely linked to a bug Microsoft had patched more than two years before.

Microsoft has promoted Windows 7 as safer and more secure than its predecessor, something it did two three years ago when it touted Vista as better than XP. But everything is relative.

Even Microsoft's top expert on designing software with security in mind -- a process Microsoft calls Security Development Lifecycle, or SDL -- has admitted that it is virtually impossible to catch some kinds of bugs without tedious line-by-line review of the code, something even Microsoft is hard-pressed to do.

On the bright side for Microsoft, three of the five critical vulnerabilities assigned to Windows 7 are in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), the browser that ships with the new OS. The remaining two are in older editions of the .NET Framework and Silverlight, the .NET-based cross-browser, cross-platform media standard Microsoft's pushing.

Windows 7 was also unaffected by the eight vulnerabilities in GDI+ (Graphics Device Interface), which was put at the top of the to-patch list by most experts. Windows XP users had to apply six of the eight GDI+ fixes, while Vista users had to deploy just one.

But that doesn't mean researchers and hackers won't uncover flaws in Windows 7, perhaps an increasing number as time goes on. "Unless Microsoft can make a brand-new operating system, bad things will continue to happen," said Miller of Shavlik.

Users already running Windows 7 can update now, but users who upgrade to Windows 7 starting this week will need to run Windows Update to obtain the patches after they've installed the new operating system.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securityWindows 7

More about MicrosoftSDLShavlikShavlik Technologies

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Gregg Keizer

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place