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Oracle's first monthly patch batch fails to placate critics

Behind MS on security, says top bug hunter

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Oracle this week released a multitude of security fixes in a long-awaited and extensive series of patches that constitute its first monthly security update.

In January and February, UK-based security tools firm Next Generation Security Software (NGSSoftware) notified Oracle of 34 security vulnerabilities affecting various versions of its database software. Patches have at last been delivered, along with fixes other vulns discovered by other security researchers and Oracle itself.

David Litchfield, managing director of NGSSoftware, told El Reg that there are probably approximately 100 security fixes in all. "There are tons of bugs for a supposedly 'unbreakable' product," he said, referring to an ill-fated marketing campaign by the database giant a couple of years back when it claimed its products were immune to attack.

The vulnerabilities affect various versions of Oracle Database Server (including the latest 10g release), Application Server and Enterprise Manager software. Oracle's Collaboration Suite and E-Business Suite 11i contain the vulnerable software and are affected as well.

Some of the flaws might be exploited to compromise a vulnerable system, cause a DoS (Denial of Service), or conduct SQL injection attacks, according to security firm Secunia. The risk remains unclear because Oracle is providing no details of the various vulnerabilities. It fears that any information would give vital clues to criminal crackers about how to exploit unpatched systems.

We can't say what this patch does- but apply it now!

In a change of policy, NGSSoftware is holding back information on the bugs it discovered in Oracle's software for three months to give users an opportunity to patch systems (NGSSoftware's stripped down advisory is here). "Some of the bugs we discovered as easy to exploit without even a user ID or password. We've decided to protect people by not releasing the information. All database administrators need to know is that their systems are massively vulnerable and they ought to apply patches. They don't need to know the details," Litchield said.

Oracle's first monthly patch invites comparisons with Microsoft, which adopted the same approach last year. Litchfield said the release of its first monthly security patch showed Oracle was improving its security response ("it's had a change of attitude"), but he is scathing about the firm's overall security stance. "Oracle is maturing, but it still got a long way to go to catch up with Microsoft," he said. ®

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