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Oracle 'sitting on security fixes'

Delay is the deadliest form of denial

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Database giant Oracle has been censured by a leading security expert for sitting on fixes to defend against a wide variety of security vulnerabilities affecting its database software.

UK-based Next Generation Security Software (NGS Software) has identified 34 security vulnerabilities affecting various versions of Oracle's database software. Around half these flaws affect the latest version of Oracle's database software, 10g. At least one of these bugs could be exploited to give attackers remote access to corporate database servers without a user ID or password. NGS Software told Oracle about the vulnerabilities in January and early February. Oracle is holding up the release of fixes - developed two months ago, according to NGS Software - until its new patch distribution system is ready to go live.

David Litchfield, managing director of NGS Software, is critical of the delay which he argues could have been prevented if Oracle had kept the old version of its patch delivery platform in commission. Oracle's tardiness has prevented NGS Software from discussing its findings with other security experts at last week's Black Hat conference in Las Vegas.

Litchfield told The Register: "I'm all for vendors having as much time as needed when it's clear they're working on a problem. It's important that a supplier produces robust patches that don't break customer applications. But for Oracle to have written patches, tested them until they're blue in the face and then sit on them is something else. I don't know why it didn't keep its old patch distribution platform in place until the new platform was up and running, perhaps running the two in parallel."

It's not the first time Litchfield has had cause to criticise Oracle's handling of IT security issues. Back in 2002 it was NGS Software that first debunked Oracle's claim that its Oracle9i database software was "unbreakable" by unearthing 24 security vulnerabilities with the software.

Oracle has reportedly said patches for the latest vulnerabilities identified by NGS Software will be available shortly. What the heck is going on? We don’t know because the company is yet to respond to our request for comment on this story. ®

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