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Microsoft Patches Windows, Exchange

In the usual array of Tuesday patches was one for a third-party product, Adobe's Flash Player.

The third bulletin, MS06-018, was relegated by Microsoft to "moderate" status, second in the company's four-step assessment scale, because it can't be used to actually grab a PC but is limited to a denial-of-service (DoS) situation where Windows can be made to crash.

Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003 all must be patched to prevent a pair of bugs in the Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator (MSDTC) from bringing the system to its knees.

Tuesday wasn't the first time MSDTC was patched. In October 2005, Microsoft fixed a different MSDTC flaw. Both that bug and the one in MS06-018 were discovered by eEye Digital Research investigators.

While Murray called Tuesday's roll-out "a pretty boring day" for patching, he had an unusual take on the fix for Adobe's Flash Player. "We can't get our heads around [MS06-020]. Maybe there's something going on behind the scenes, but since when has Microsoft patched third-party products? Is this a move to take more accountability of bundled, partnered products in Windows? If so, that would be huge, a phenomenal step for Microsoft, to essentially 'own' security at any level that touches the Microsoft OS."

The shift would be similar, said Murray, to Apple Computer Inc.'s practice of patching third-party applications bundled with its Mac OS X, such as the open-source Apache Web server software.

In November, 2005, Microsoft put out a bulletin similar to the one in March 2006, in which it recommended that users update Flash based on Adobe's own alert. But it didn't follow up the next month with a forced patch, as it did Tuesday. "If Microsoft wound up with that accountability, you'd see an incredible improvement in security," said Murray.

Microsoft did not immediately return a call for clarification on the Adobe Flash patch.

Users can obtain the month's patches via Windows' Automatic Update, from the Microsoft Update service, or through other software and services the company maintains, such as Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or Software Update Services (SUS).

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