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Cisco hops onto patching treadmill

Network giant wheels out bi-annual IOS update cycle

Application security programs and practises

Cisco has taken a leaf out of Microsoft's book by adopting a regular patch release cycle. However, the change will apply only to security bugs involving its core IOS software and not all its products.

Starting on 26 March, Cisco will release bundles of IOS security advisories on the fourth Wednesday of March and September in each calendar year.

The networking giant gave itself room for manoeuvre by reserving the right to publish out of sequence patches in cases where serious security vulnerabilities are publically disclosed or for bugs which become the target of active exploitation.

Cisco will continue to issue security advisories for products other than IOS, its network operating system that features on a wide range of Cisco switches and routers, as and when needed. For example, future security updates to VoIP kit will be published without reference to any regular patch release schedule, according to Cisco's pre-existing standard disclosure policy.

As with Microsoft and Oracle before it, Cisco explained the change is the result of customer requests for greater predictability over the timing of patch releases. Its patch cycle is less frequent than Oracle's quarterly release schedule and Microsoft's infamous Patch Tuesday updates, partly because network security updates are often trickier to test and roll out than application or operating system patches.

The format of Cisco's advisory will remain unchanged, as explained here. ®

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