Viruses And The Automatic Updates Dilemma

A hospital in England, infected by Conficker, demonstrates the dilemma faced by businesses when it comes to Microsoft's Automatic Updates.

The hospital's computers were infected because the staff disabled Automatic Updates after a computer rebooted mid-surgery. What else could they have done? This is a case where computer management is literally a matter of life or death. They couldn't leave AU on, nor could they turn it off. Somewhere in between lies testing and careful deployment, but in reality most companies don't have the resources for manually installing Microsoft updates. That's what AU is for, isn't it? Actually Microsoft steers businesses away from AU, but installing the recommended business solution is non-trivial. Most small businesses simply enable AU, until there's a problem and it has to be disabled.

I'd like to say AU is better than no AU, but an unstable Microsoft patch can crash your computer. A few years ago there was a buggy Windows patch that disrupted wireless capability. It was hard for end users to see the connection between the patch and the problem because AU works silently, by design. The second Tuesday of the month is Microsoft Patch Tuesday, when IT shops around the world scramble to evaluate and install the latest round of fixes. Most of the time the updates are fine, but you get one with a problem and suddenly the help desk phone is ringing off the hook. That's why I schedule my regular customer visits after Patch Tuesday, so we can deal with any problems that may arise.

If you decide to keep AU enabled, be aware of these issues. If you decide to download and notify, don't keep clicking "later" or you'll wind up with Conficker and its ilk. Be sure to update your antivirus software, and don't forget to subscribe to Tech Tips for the latest computer news.

Posted byTriona Guidry at 9:06 AM  


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