Patch Tuesday - restart your computer twice, just in case

Microsoft released the usual rich crop of patches and updates for Windows and Office on Patch Tuesday this week. On my Windows 8.1 computers, two restarts were required – one for the first 39 updates, then a second restart for an additional 11 updates. It’s not required but you might want to restart your computer an extra time, just in case it helps finish the process of installing this week’s patches.

Windows 8 tip: click on the Power button on the Start screen. If it says “Install Updates And Restart,” then there are patches pending that haven’t finished. If it just says “Restart,” then there’s no need to do anything – nothing is waiting.

It’s always scary to read the description of the month’s patches. It’s a reminder of how complex our computers are. This was not a particularly exciting month so the list contains a lot of entries like this: “Bulletin #2 (Critical) – A security update to patch remote code execution vulnerabilities found in Windows, .NET Framework, Office, Lync, and Silverlight. Attackers would use this vulnerability by embedding certain TrueType fonts on an untrusted website.” Issues like this are addressed month after month. If you stay up to date, you are well armored against bad guys regardless of what direction they attack from – online, the computer next to you at Starbucks, or next to you in your office.

It’s not just Microsoft, of course. Adobe released a massive collection of 52 patches this week for Flash, Acrobat, and Acrobat Reader. Some of the updates are for “critical” vulnerabilities, a term of art in the patching industry that means, roughly: the bad guys are already working on exploits and will be out there in the wild soon, so install updates now if you don’t want your computer to die an ugly death.

Mozilla followed suit with its own set of 38 updates for Firefox, including patches for five critical vulnerabilities.

Many of these programs have become quite good at installing updates automatically. The Automatic Updates system for Windows and Office is smooth and effective. Acrobat, Chrome, Firefox and others are now much more reliable about staying up to date with a minimum of annoying notices flashing from the lower right corner. It’s still true, though, that the best way to stay up to date and be safe online is to subscribe to Bruceb Remote Management, which keeps workstations up to date as well as monitoring your computers for problems. Bruceb Remote Management subscribers will get all of the updates (including any optional Windows and Office patches) next Tuesday night, when the next round of updates is installed.

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