What patches and Advil have in common

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I’m convinced there are days when IT administrators must go to work, enter their office, quietly shut the door, and proceed to bang their heads against the wall for the next eight hours.  Because it feels so good when they stop.

Every day brings new challenges, and just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on what’s going on, something new hits you from out of the blue.  You know that taking care of the problem is going to require a significant investment of your time and staff; yet, you know that ignoring it and hoping things will work out for the best is almost a guarantee that they won’t.

Case in point…this article from Network World, in which Microsoft says it won’t immediately patch a problem that potentially leaves the computers of millions of Windows users at risk.  The article says application developers have been misusing a critical Windows functionality as they code.  The end results are vulnerabilities that may allow hackers to hijack users’ computers, by tricking users into visiting malicious Web sites.  One researcher told Microsoft he’s found vulnerabilities in programs like Office 2007, Adobe Reader and the web browser of your choice.  The researcher says Microsoft told him while it won't ship a security bulletin, it will address the problem in future Windows and Office service packs.

A future service pack?  Oh.

Granted, this is notMicrosoft’s fault.  And I’m pretty sure that the developers of these legitimate programs have not gone around, trying to deliberately cause problems.  But this has the potential to really snarl things up now.  Which means it’s one more thing for the hassled and harried IT administrator to watch for, along with everything else that’s on his plate.

We provide solutions through our information security partner, Alert Logic, who watches around the clock for suspicious traffic, both inbound and outbound with their state-of-the-art intrusion detection system (IDS).  And when they see it, they work with us, moving quickly to fix the problem, often before our customers even know there's been a problem.

Now, there are days when things run very smoothly, when the network infrastructure behaves as it is supposed to behave, when applications don’t crash, when backups run smoothly and when the firewall or IDS system catch the bad guys before they can do any harm.  Those days are infrequent, though; most days are filled with solving problems of varying degrees.  Which is why we keep a solid supply of Advil.  Banging your head against the wall is a real pain.