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MS Patch Tuesday & the urgent, critical patches


Part of our work, the hidden job that many of our customers don’t like or even understand is keeping the systems they host with us running on the most current, secure version available.    This is part of the service offering we consider “managed services”.

Microsoft people frequently refer to this joyous day as “Patch Tuesday” (Second Tuesday of each month) but actually we end up doing the work testing, deployment, remediation and support from Tuesday – Thursday.

This week the news brings an urgent matter, Microsoft systems that have “Remote Desktop” enabled, which is nearly all of the Windows machines hosted on the internet directly have a bad, bad security hole.  Microsoft released a patch but I can’t help think that they are downplaying the matter significantly.   This, in my book, is considered a very dangerous point of attack.

Qualys has published the following recommendations for the RDP vulnerability:

1. Within the week apply the patch on your Windows machines that are running the RDP service and are internet-facing (you can scan for port 3389 on your perimeter if you do not have an updated map). Note that the patch requires a reboot to become active. If you cannot apply the patch or reboot your machines, take the following countermeasures:
– Configure the firewalls on the machines so that only trusted IPs can access port 3389;

– Activate the Network Layer Authentication (NLA) protocol, which does not have this vulnerability. NLA is available on Vista and above on the server side and client side, and Windows XP can be made NLA compatible by installing a software package from Microsoft.

2. Within the month patch the rest of your systems – both external and internal. While the main attack vector is directly through the internet, it is likely malware will be equipped with the exploit for the RDP vulnerability and that it will be used for internal malware propagation.



Google vs. Apple — Android vs. Apple’s iOS


I am an avid reader of TechCrunch and Mashable and spend quite some energy retweeting and posting to Facebook when I am inspired to broadcast or share.

While reading this article on TechCrunch I was actually compelled to comment in more detail and below is the comment.

To save you a hearty read, the key point in this article is that Android is likely to be an “explosive” force in 2011.  The author makes a good case but partially agrees and argues with Scoble popular opinions that this is bad for iOS/iPhone.  In turn, Scoble feels that bad for iOS/iPhone means bad for everyone because excellence is delivered effectively via the efforts of quality control from the single source Apple.

These comments quickly turned to the topic of passion that everyone in our sector thinks quite a bit about.  This article activated the readers to chime in with their ideas and expert opinions so I am no different.  As I tend not to blog too often, I decided to bridge this with our corporate blog.  This post-pc era perspective touches many of the same elements in our business transformation consulting services.

Ahh this conversation is fun to postulate about… with so many opinions and perspectives.

Apple vs. Google in the platform war: my take is Apple wins, this is why.

The AppStore/iTunes/iAd/OS and overall ecosystem of Apple is pretty strong and scaling pretty well.  They are performing amazing feats of business scalability.  As long as they keep their operational performance high, they may have an advantage of quality that other platform makers won’t be able to ensure.  Don’t under estimate the dark power of that force.

Additionally, please keep in mind that Apple is gaining serious “market shifting” advantages developing the consumer option of simplicity in a deeply complicated market with competing daily “explosions” and distracting noises, logic and tremendous budgets.
In the “post-pc era” the technical/marketing elements that previously won the leadership positions are not the keys to this new kingdom. The rules of success in the cloud based, “app for that” centric, always on, live/on-demand data access, with consumer driven collaborative intelligence, monitization and consumption.

Have a look at this WolframAlpha “analysis”:
Money matters in this platform fight.  Apple/Google are an epic force with their operational cost/profit story.

Google/Android has a lot going for it and the logic of creating an open platform is very much the key to the win so I agree that the Android platform has rich promise as a market maker and contender. (I won’t rehash the authors concrete points on why Android is strong.)

As long as Apple remains essentially closed they are creating enemies but they are also setting the pace and trend.  I also believe that Apple is at the lead of forging new ground for consumer behavior, as the leader in this essential element, it sets another tough hurdle for any other competitor.

Leaders like Apple set the pace, distance, and altitude of the mountain marathon race.  That can be the wining advantage.

With all this fighting, I hope the winners keep their eye on their larger responsibilities as global citizens.  The fight is fun to watch and play while dominance story plays out but the stakes are high and match point is defining our freedom and our future.

The winners will be leading the information rights and access definition of this new era and we have seen that companies that measure their success by profit/shareholder value alone don’t tend to think about the bigger picture.

Microsoft has a real chance for changing all games with Azure


What will the answer be from other players?  Is Microsoft making a comeback? or have they really been here for years?

As a technologist, I’ve been following the major changes in the field for many moons. It’s not an easy battle to understand the daily shifts in the global information platform game. In someways, it is exhausting and exciting.  You need to have marathon level stamina and perspective too.  I balance that information-gathering hobby with professionally practiced skills of trying to actually implement the marketing department’s promises. Those technologies are epic and small.  The real shift in power comes from big companies that focus their business like laser on key industries to change the world with ideas and new ways of working. (Don’t “starfish and spider” me.. there are two sides to that book.)

The US has been a leader in tech and have been powerful because critical mass and adoption matters in certain early phases of technology introduction. No one has been better at reaching that all important critical mass than Microsoft. Their market penetration for defining computer usage has been effective in determining how we all think about what is possible with a computer. However, life has not been rosy at the top for Microsoft in recent years, they were not Internet driven as much as other players and Google is giving them a serious run for the money. Additionally, they made grave mistakes, gotten bogged down in their own internal interests and managed to hire some very smart people that were too smart to listen to the market.

The products became less exciting, the competition seemed to be running past with all the best ideas and it looked as if Microsoft was going the way of DEC, IBM and other big players that started out calling all the shots but got lazy or burdened by their own directions.

Apple, Google, Oracle, Intel and Amazon all seemed to be outdoing the entire MS model…. until… Azure.

The brainchild of a “OZ like” smart guy who can navigate the corporate machine of MS into new unchartered waters. MS has always been good at changing direction when necessary but it looks like this time they took the old Apple slogan “think different” to heart – and they may have a new world to build.

Azure positions itself as a solution to faster, better and cheaper rather than doing the same thing the old way. Finally, MS has fixed the key issue technologists have been facing for years. The old model of publishing software is dead and the life cycle for products, feature introduction and scalability will be defined by the Cloud space. This latest version promises to change the game for millions of companies around the world. Cloud computing is set to play a major role in defining the way it will be used and the adoption rate.

The key for me is their overall initiative.  There is a strong focus, not a pet project or a hard sell.  This is soon to be a replacement for hosting businesses as we know it.  (while converting existing large players to a MS cloud platform.)

I suspect that we will look back at this moment as a key crossroads in the future of computing. Let’s see what happens in the next few months.

As for me, I am preparing.