XP SP3 omits critical security update

While it doesn't install vulnerable version of Flash, it doesn't update Flash either

Microsoft this week confirmed that Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) omits a critical security update issued by the company in November 2006.

The company acknowledged the omission while attempting to clarify the impact XP SP3 has on existing installations of Flash Player, an add-on that Microsoft bundled with Windows XP when it first shipped in 2001. Microsoft has patched Flash Player in the past using Windows Update, notably with the security update MS06-069 it issued Nov. 14, 2006.

MS06-069, the AWOL update, patched five vulnerabilities in Adobe Systems' Flash Player, and was rated "critical" by Microsoft, the company's highest threat ranking.

Microsoft did not explain why the patch is missing from the service pack, which it has billed as including "all previously released updates."

Flash Player has made security news of late; last week, for example, researchers revealed that hackers were actively exploiting Flash Player 9.0.115.0, an edition released by Adobe in December 2007. On Monday, Computerworld reported that Windows XP SP3 shipped with that out-of-date and vulnerable version, rather than the newer and more secure Flash Player 9.0.124.0, which Adobe issued in early April, about two weeks before Microsoft wrapped up the service pack and began distributing it to OEMs.

At the time, Microsoft declined to answer questions about XP SP3 and Flash, including why it wasn't able to add the newest version to XP SP3 and what advice it would give users.

On Tuesday, however, a Microsoft spokeswoman issued a clarification, saying that XP SP3 "does not ship any version of Flash in the Windows XP Service Pack 3 update that customers use to update existing SP2 machines. Any statement that Microsoft installs any versions of Flash Player with Windows XP SP3 is inaccurate."

Instead, said the spokeswoman in an e-mail, XP SP3 has a hands-off approach to Flash; it does not disturb whatever version of the popular Internet multimedia software that the user has installed. If, for instance, users have upgraded to Flash Player 9.0.115.0 themselves, then that is the version that remains on the PC after the XP SP3 update.

The same goes for users who had earlier applied the MS06-069 patch, which updated Flash to version 8.0.33.0 in late 2006, but who have not refreshed Flash since then. "The Windows XP SP3 update has no impact on systems where customers have applied MS06-069, which has been available to XP users on [Windows Update/Automatic Updates] since November 2006," she said.

That hands-off attitude also extends to new installations of XP SP3. In fact, said Microsoft's spokeswoman, new PCs assembled with the latest service pack don't touch the original 2001 version of Flash 6 bundled with the OS when it debuted. "A new system built using a copy of Windows XP with SP3 integrated will install the original Flash 6 that shipped with Windows XP gold and will need MS06-069 installed from Windows Update," she said.

The situation is odd, said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security, and more than a little confusing. "Microsoft calls its service packs cumulative updates, and tells customers they're the new baseline, in this case for installing XP. I don't know of another instance where they've not included all the security patches with a service pack."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?