2017 has been a year of security updates. If you feel like you’ve been hearing more about breaches, vulnerabilities, code injection, and problems with computers across the map in the first half of 2017 than you did in all of 2016, well, you’re right.
In early 2017 a group of hackers calling themselves the Shadow Brokers started releasing documentation of vulnerabilities in Windows Operating systems and other commonly used programs. The vulnerabilities themselves are NSA software weapons; backdoors and code meant to enable the NSA to observe computer users was released online free for the taking of anyone who wanted to attempt to use the programs maliciously.
Microsoft and other large software companies like Adobe have been quick to respond to the leaking of the exploits, though Microsoft has come under fire from the public for allowing the vulnerabilities to go un-repaired for years in some cases. But the tech giant has deployed hundreds of patches since the leaks, even going so far as to update its end-of-lifed Windows XP operating system to prevent attacks on users.
The methods of attack are insidious and frustratingly novel – it’s difficult for antiviruses or careful net hygiene to prevent attacks or infections that have never been seen before. One attack used Microsoft’s built-in Antivirus program, Microsoft Defender, to install malware through the program that was supposed to prevent the installation of malware. The devastating Wanna Cry Malware that spread so rapidly in early May was a result of the Shadow Broker leaks.
Nearly every week since the revelation of the vulnerabilities there has been a new targeted attack taking advantage of known openings in software, leading to dozens of patches being released from major software vendors to fix the bugs in their code.
Microsoft traditionally releases security updates and patches for its myriad operating systems on the second Tuesday of each month, sometimes leading to an influx of problems on the second Wednesday. On Tuesday June 13th a Microsoft Security Update for Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 caused several documented problems with commonly used programs.
There are seven major issues documented in Outlook alone that are causing problems for a number of PMCS clients. You can read further about the problems at Microsoft’s website and reach out to us here if you need help with the workarounds for your Outlook issues.
So where does that leave us?
There are threats that Microsoft is working hard to protect its customers from but the protection from those threats comes at the cost of impaired functionality – it’s a difficult choice to make, between security and convenience, but one with a clear answer.
Your Microsoft systems should have automatic updates enabled to ensure that any patches for known vulnerabilities are applied as soon as possible. It’s not worth the risk to your company’s data, privacy, and security to allow your systems to go without updates. Occasionally you may experience a loss of performance but that loss of performance, or few minutes without email, or difficulty opening attachments is a very small price to pay to protect yourself and your business from all of the threats currently operating online. It’s better to work through a minor fix in the settings of your email than it is to pay a ransom to someone who has locked down your server and is selling your data.
If you’re unsure about how to proceed with automatic updates for your desktop or your server please reach out to PMCS. We can patch and update your servers, configure your devices for automatic security updates. We can also provide you top-of-the-line antivirus protection against the less-exceptional threats out on the world wide web; a strong third-party antivirus is a must since Windows Defender has been compromised and used to spread malware, and PMCS can walk you through all the steps to choosing an antivirus that suits your environment.
The internet is a changing landscape, but you don’t have to walk it alone. Ask for help if you need it, that’s what we’re here for.