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Novell declares Defcon One on GroupWise patch

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There's an extremely serious security problem with GroupWise that requires an immediate patch, but the problem is apparently so bad that Novell can't even bring itself to tell its users what it is.

The Utah-based software firm has issued an email to its GroupWise 5.5 Enhancement Pack or GroupWise 6 users asking them that to apply the "Padlock Fix" to their servers immediately but isn't telling anybody why it's needed, lest hackers exploit the problem on unpatched systems.

Richard Bliss, marketing manager for Novell GroupWise, admitted it was going against the grain in asking users to trust a software vendor about the safety of applying a patch within their environment.

It was warning users about an unstated risk and urging them "in the strongest language" to apply a patch before releasing details of what it did for good reason, he claimed.

Bliss said the patch corrected a problem with Novell's GroupWise software that has existed for two years but remained undiscovered and, so far as he knew, unexploited by hackers. GroupWise 4.x, 5.0, 5.2, and 5.5 servers and clients are not affected by the problem.

Bliss admitted the firm faced a dilemma about whether to fully inform users about the problem, common practice with security problems which has been followed by Novell in the past, but judged inappropriate in this case.

The security problem here is so severe it needs a whole different type of response, Bliss told us.

He acknowledged people will place the worst possible interpretation on this and said Novell was prepared to "take a hit" on its reputation in "order to protect the integrity of its customers".

So the bug must be bad then.

A link to server and less-critical client versions on the Padlock Fix have been posted by Novell on itssupport site. ®

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