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What are some of the biggest software patching myths?

Desktop patch management is subject to its share of myths. Our expert penetrates the fog around waiting on software patching and Windows XP security.

There are a number of different myths regarding patch management, but by far the most pervasive of these myths is the idea that patches should not be applied until a month or two (or longer) after they are released. Like all good myths, this one contains an element of truth.

The basic idea behind this myth is that patches occasionally contain bugs. Rather than deploying a potentially buggy patch right away, you should wait a while to see if the patch is recalled or if anyone experiences any major problems with it.

There are a few problems with waiting to deploy a patch. For starters, you can't believe everything you read online. Just because someone claims to have had problems with a patch does not mean the patch is buggy. The person who reported the problem could be running a really abnormal or unsupported configuration.

The other problem with waiting to deploy patches is that security patches are designed to correct known vulnerabilities. Until you apply a patch, you are vulnerable to a well-documented exploit. In my opinion, it is prudent to do your own patch testing, but I do not recommend simply waiting to see if anyone else reports problems.

Another myth that I have been hearing a lot lately is that Microsoft no longer releasing patches for Windows XP is a non-issue. The idea behind this myth is that Windows XP is solid, reliable and has stood the test of time, and therefore does not need any patches.

The problem is that even though Microsoft has abandoned Windows XP, hackers have not. Malicious hackers know a number of organizations will continue to use Windows XP. They also know Microsoft is not going to patch any vulnerabilities that may be discovered in the future. It is therefore clearly in the hacking community's best interest to continue looking for exploits in Windows XP.

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