Get the latest Windows updates securely

Diane korngiebel By Diane Korngiebel

Reports of Microsoft’s silent updates published on Sept. 13 and 20 by Windows Secrets raised security questions for many readers.

But with a little bit of know-how, you can keep risks to a minimum when getting updates using Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox.

Add extra security to your update strategy

Following our stories about Microsoft’s silent updating of Windows Update, a large number of readers wrote in asking whether hackers might be able to use a similar mechanism to access their PCs.

Although there is no evidence that anyone has yet compromised the Windows Update service itself, the unfortunate answer is that hackers have already been using components of Windows Update to bypass firewalls, as reported by Symantec, Computerworld, and elsewhere last May. The method involves calling on the Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), which is part of Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista.

The good news is that reader Paul Jackson has come up with a tip that may reduce the risks posed by this service:

  • “I completely turn off Windows Update by disabling the Automatic Updates service and setting the BITS service to manual. I have an older machine so every little thing I can to help performance is welcomed.

    “When I decide to do a Windows or Microsoft update, I run a batch file that changes the Automatic Update service type to Automatic, starts it and also starts the BITS service.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2007-09-27: