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Computing: Important Windows Patches

Microsoft has released two particularly important security patches recently and you should take steps to ensure you have installed them. One is for Internet Explorer called MS04-004 (832894) and one is for Windows NT 4.0, 2000, XP and 2003 called MS04-007 (828028). You may have already heard dire warnings from the mainstream media about the latter. You don't need to be intimately acquainted with the details as such, suffice to say the IE patch blocks certain types of phishing/hacking attempts and the Windows patch corrects a fault which could give rise to another Blaster-type internet worm.

The patches are easy to obtain from http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com. By default, all "Critical Updates" are selected for download, but if you don't have time or bandwidth, deselect all but these two.

[Update July 2004 - This patch has been superseded by MS04-025 (867801).]

You may be left wondering: Why are some critical updates more critical than others? The answer is long and complicated, so in reality your only choice is to install all patches offered by Windows Update, even if, technically, there are some you don't need or don't represent a risk. (Some security patches are pre-emptive and exploits/attacks do not yet exist.)

Unfortunately, the full complement of downloads can be prohibitive over a dialup connection if you are not keeping your system updated regularly. If you have a problem with bandwidth and/or time, try downloading two or three patches at the end of your internet session (you will need to reboot). Over a few days/weeks you should be able to get them all.
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