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Oracle today published the mother of all security patches containing 101 fixes for flaws in its database, application server, E-Business Suite and PeopleSoft and JD Edwards applications.

Almost half - 45 - of the flaws can be can be exploited by a hacker over a network, while at least six errors in the Oracle database http server can be exploited without the hacker requiring any user name or password. A re-assuring 22 database flaws do at least require some form of authentication.

In total, Oracle's latest quarterly critical patch update (CPU) features 63 fixes for the database, 14 for its application server, 13 for the E-Business Suite nine for PeopleSoft and JD Edwards and two for Oracle's Java 2 Enterprise Edition containers on the client. Oracle introduced the quarterly CPU system in November 2004.

This is the latest chapter of a painful security story for Oracle that makes Microsoft, whose software is the internet's number-one target, appear a community role model.

If it isn't the size of Oracle's patches - a January CPU saw a bumper 103 fixes - then it's their timeliness, or lack of.

Red Database Security last year slammed Oracle for taking more than 650 days to fix six problems. And in January this year wNext-Generation Security Software (NGSS), a security research firm, released details of a hole in the Oracle's Apache web server, saying Oracle was moving too slowly as it had taken 800 days to fix some of the problems in the January CPU.

Recently, Oracle's response has been to chastise the likes of NGSS, accusing it of endangering users by publishing details of problems. Microsoft, at least, has had the grace to work with security vendors that post details of holes in Windows to the internet, and worked with them to fix the problem.

January's dust-up came, as Gartner - peering beyond its Magic Quadrant for a moment - warned Oracle was no longer a bastion of security. Gartner warned DBAs to be "more aggressive" when protecting their Oracle applications as they weren't getting enough help from the database giant itself.

Gartner analyst Rich Mogul noted of January's CPU: "The range and seriousness of the vulnerabilities patched in this update cause us great concern... Oracle has not yet experienced a mass security exploit, but this does not mean one will never occur."

It will be interesting to see how Oracle copes with the security flaws that will surely emerge in its 21 latest acquisitions affect users security further. ®

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