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Red Hat is making hay from a report on system security vulnerabilities that apparently gives Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) a clean bill of health.

A SANS Institute report has identified 20 top internet vulnerabilities of which only two affected RHEL, Red Hat said. According to Red Hat, patches have already been issued via the Red Hat network.

Red Hat claimed the report proves RHEL subscribers were less susceptible to network security holes than users of other platforms. The statement, though, is apparently a riposte to studies backed by Microsoft, designed to “prove” Windows is more secure than Linux and offers better performance, that involved RHEL.

A Security Innovation (SI) study published in June and a VeriTest report in April specifically pitted Windows Server 2003 and SQL Sever 2003 against RHEL running MySQL and Oracle 10g, in the SI study, for both security and performance.

Mike Nash, Microsoft's security business and technology unit corporate vice president, recently drew on the SI study to dis' MySQL and Oracle 10g on RHEL, saying: "Unbreakable? I think not," in a reference to Oracle's "Unbreakable Linux" campaign.

Coming back at Microsoft, Red Hat said Wednesday the SANS Institute report showed “relatively few" critical issues affect Linux users. "There are many research reports that try to compare the number of vulnerabilities between Linux and other operating systems, but none take into account the severity of the issues," Red Hat said.

SANS Institute said this quarter's six most critical vulnerabilities affected Internet Explorer (IE), Exchange Server, Windows Message Queuing Server, Windows SMB protocol processing, Windows HTML help file parsing and Windows shell remote code execution.

Away from the Microsoft-Red Hat match, SANS Institute pointed to a "particularly worrisome" trend in vulnerabilities in data back-up products and cited vulnerabilities in Computer Associates' BrightStor ARCServe and Veritas Backup software. "Unfortunately, [storage] products have become easy targets for attackers and since they have access to substantially all data, the products' weakness create real danger," SANS Institute said. [Veritas hooked up with Symantec just in the nick of time, ey? - Ed.]

Home users also face heightened risk of attack, thanks to new holes in iTunes, RealPlayer and IE. RealNetworks' RealPlayer suffered multiple vulnerabilities while iTunes suffered from an MPEG4 file-processing overflow, SANS Institute said.®

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