DNS Bug Leaves Windows Users Patchless

A DNS problem with Microsoft's Windows Update site has prevented users from being able to download critical patches.

Windows users have been prevented from being able to download critical patches to protect their computers from security vulnerabilities since late last week, due to problems accessing Microsoft Corp.s Windows Update site.

While users have long complained about the unreliability of the update site, the current problem began last Thursday and continued throughout the weekend. It also affected all Windows platforms that are update-enabled, users told eWeek.

Microsoft typically issues numerous and critical security patches for its Windows operating systems, the company has released six so far for XP since the products October 25 launch. The XP patches have dealt with vulnerabilities in areas from the Universal Plug and Play subsystem of XP, which can allow hackers to take control of personal computers through the Internet and then launch virus attacks or destroy system files; to Windows Media Player, remote assistance, and a cumulative patch for all users of Internet Explorer 5.5 and 6.0.

Microsoft officials in Redmond, Wash., are attributing the Windows Update sites problem to a Domain Name Server and said the problem began when the company upgraded some of the systems that run the site. A spokesman on Tuesday told eWeek: "The DNS problem from the weekend, resulting from Microsofts efforts to improve the quality of service to customers, has now been fixed."

While it is also unclear exactly how many people were affected by the problem, the number is expected to be large given that some eight-million people go to the site each week to download security patches to secure their computers against rampant viruses and other threats.

The glitch with the Windows Update site comes just days after users started complaining that the automatic security updates being downloaded for Windows XP were causing their systems to become unstable and some device drivers to stop working.

While Microsoft customers are annoyed and aggravated by the problems with the update site, they are not surprised.

"The Windows Update site is a real winner," said Timothy Johns, the president of Daytona Digital, a system builder/networking firm in Daytona Beach, Florida. "Every new system we design, build, install, always needs to be updated, since there are so darn many builds of every operating system. We use Roadrunner here, and we get a pretty good download speed, except when dealing with any Microsoft download."

"That update site is probably Microsofts least priority. The problems there keep us busy and it just always makes me wonder what the average user does when faced with these issues," he said.