17 August 2004 By Liam Logsdon
If your PC is set to automatically download Microsoft's enormous SP2 security patch to upgrade and repair the Windows XP operating system, prepare for the horrid ramifications. Office and home users may be surprised to learn that none of their programs will work and will have to replace them.
Microsoft released a long list of programs that are affected last week, including all of its own products. Even IT administrators of sophisticated networks are having a hard time making their way through the update. Security firm Secunia's ITO Tom Kristen told this reporter, "Microsoft has made the ultimate security upgrade with this mega-patch". "Their goal was to eliminate any possible breach of security, and they have accomplished this goal by shutting down all existing programs".
A spokesman for Microsoft, Chin Xu-Lin stated, "Any program ever written prior to this release will simply not work and that was our goal". "Backwards compatibility of our programs is a distant memory". "We even made sure current antivirus programs, including those made by McAfee and Symantec would be in conflict".
"Our idea was to eliminate any possible backdoor in our code that could be used by hackers". "We discovered the best course of action was to design a security patch that was incompatible with any existing program". "If the programs do not work, hackers will have a hard time finding anything useful on PCs", replied Xu-Lin.
"Technical support personnel have a tough road ahead of them", said Kristen. His firm is advising clients to run away very fast from SP2's upgrade, and consider making the move to Macintosh. "At least that is a stable program and is compliant with all other applications running on intranets and the internet network", stated Kirsten. "Don't apply it unless you are tired of using Microsoft's products", he stressed.
Yahoo's IM tool and ICQ appear on the list of applications with potential SP2 conflicts. Ubiquitous plug-in and helper applications used with Web browsers are involved, including everything associated with Internet Explorer. "We knew IE would be our Achilles Heel, but we needed a browser to sell", said Xu-Lin.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing CIO's will encounter will be the employee who has total disregard for company policy and does want they want anyway. Many employees have their PCs set up for auto-download of MS products. Those that use the office network to shop on eBay, download porn or search for free MP3s are most susceptible.
Oddly enough, Visual Studio .Net, a program used to write code and produce web based programs will not be affected. "We decided to leave one product alone and Visual Studio won out", stated Xu-Lin. "Since VS .Net can be used to create programs, it can also be used to repair existing programs". "We felt we needed to give the customer some latitude with our security patch and this is the direction we went". "Customers may download the free 135.7 GB PDF file on our homepage, and teach themselves programming", lamented Xu-Lin.
Microsoft also announced that their anticipated new OS, codename Longhorn, might not work with SP2 either. Xu-Lin proudly stated, "At Microsoft, job quality is 2.0.34. We will fix it with a patch later".