April 23, 2008 (Infoworld) - "...Web sites are rife with security problems: In 2006, the Web Application Security Consortium surveyed 31,373 sites and found that 85.57 percent were vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks, 26.38 were vulnerable to SQL injection and 15.70 percent had faults that could let an attacker steal information from databases...
Vendors have typically only tested their software patches on machines in default configurations, which isn't representative of the real IT world, Paller said. Many businesses use custom applications with custom configurations, which require rigorous testing to ensure a patch won't break their applications. The U.S. Air Force was one of the first organizations that tried a new approach when contracting IT systems with Microsoft and other application vendors about two years ago to enable speedier patching, Paller said.
The Air Force's CIO at the time, John M. Gilligan, consolidated 38 different IT contracts into one and ordered all new systems to be delivered in the same, secure configuration. Then, he ordered that application vendors certify that their applications would work on the secure configurations, Paller said. Then Gilligan took his case to Microsoft. At the time, it took the Air Force about 57 days between the time a patch was released until their 450,000 systems were up-to-date. Gilligan wanted Microsoft to test its patches on machines with the same configuration as the Air Force's, shifting the cumbersome testing process back to the vendor. The negotiations, which didn't start off well, culminated with a meeting with CEO Steve Ballmer. "The story is that he [Gilligan] use a four-letter word in the meeting," Paller said. "You know what the four-letter word was? Unix."
Gilligan won. Now, the Air Force can patch in about 72 hours now, and they're looking to cut that to 24 hours
, Paller said. The idea was so successful that as of Feb. 1, the U.S. government implemented the same conditions for all of its agencies..."