Automatic Nothing at All…

Today’s the day. It’s the second Tuesday of the month. That’s when Microsoft releases a month’s worth of patches, most months. Sometimes, they’ll skip a month. Now, many of the people reading this are thinking, “Why do I care? Automatic update is turned on.” Wrong. Nope. Gotcha–you’re now a target for the spyware of the month club.

The problem is two-fold. First, some spyware, and malware in general, disables the automatic update features of Windows. That keeps the early infectors from getting booted out of a computer when the patches arrive, because they won’t.

Second, Microsoft added a feature to Windows Update some months back that confirmed that the copy of Windows being updated was “genuine.” While I understand why–I’m a software publisher myself, after all–the Windows authentication program was designed to be politically correct, badly. It asks permission to check your Windows for authenticity, so the automatic update fails, and does so silently. To run it, you have to go to Windows Update (in the Tools menu of Internet Explorer), do an update run manually, and approve the installation and the running of the tool. Then go back to Windows Update and search for updates AGAIN, and you’ll probably find new patches that became available once Windows was validated as genuine.

So the moral of the story is to check Windows Update manually around once a month, after the second Tuesday, and see if the updates installed. More than half the machines I’ve checked manually in the last month needed manual patching, even though automatic updates were turned on.

While you’re checking software, check that antivirus programs and everything else are updating as designed. Don’t be a target–software, like people, does what you inspect, not what you expect.