M$ Initially Released Corrupted IE Patch

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The patch for Internet Explorer that Microsoft on Tuesday urged users to install as soon as possible was initially flawed, the company said Wednesday.

Several of the Internet Explorer updates initially provided via the Download Center were corrupted, Microsoft officials said, and couldn't be installed.

"The updates were corrupted, breaking the digital signatures," a member of the IE development team wrote on the browser's official blog on Tuesday. "We've identified the problem [and] removed the affected updates from the Download Center."

The broken signatures caused failures of both Systems Management Server (SMS) -- the enterprise management tool used to distribute new software and updates -- and individual Internet Explorer installations.

"If customers got the update from the Download Center in the first few hours after the 10 a.m. [PDT] release, then the update that was downloaded would not install," confirmed a Microsoft spokesperson Wednesday. "Microsoft immediately pulled the ability to get the updates from the Download Center, investigated the cause of the problem, and re-published the updates."

Only the update files posted on the Download Center -- which is where links in the individual security bulletins take users -- were affected, Microsoft said. "Automatic Update, Windows Update, Microsoft Update, and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) were not affected," the company said in an explanation added to the MS05-038 bulletin Wednesday.

The glitch is an embarrassment for Microsoft. "I've never seen an update corrupted like this," said Mike Murray, the director of research at vulnerability management vendor nCircle. "We've had updates that were broken somehow or didn't work like they should, but not this."

Some users commenting on Microsoft's blog site took the company to task for the screw-up. Dominic White, a South African studying computer science at Rhodes University who has published papers on automated update technologies in general, and Microsoft's in particular, was one.

"What bothers me is the way this was described," wrote White. "'This only impacts users downloading via Download Center' [Microsoft said], but this is exactly what it would look like if someone had compromised the patches. Nobody seemed to think about the possibility of hacked patches and Microsoft didn’t have to say they weren’t hacked, just a bug.

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