Oracle Patches 51 Flaws

Of the 51 patches -- one fewer than Oracle said would be released when it posted its first-ever pre-announcement bulletin last week -- 26 are in the company's flagship Oracle database. Other patched products include Oracle Application Server, Oracle E-Business Suite and Applications, Oracle Enterprise Manager, and Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne.

The January Critical Patch Update, as Oracle dubs its quarterly security fixes, was half as large as the previous one. That CPU, issued in October 2006, featured 101 patches.

"This wasn't the largest," says Amichai Shulman, chief technology officer of Imperva, an Israeli data center security vendor. "And we've seen a lot of these same vulnerabilities, or similar vulnerabilities in previous CPUs." It's not unusual, says Shulman, for already fixed Oracle vulnerabilities to reappear or to require repatching.

Oracle, which also recently instituted a scoring system to rank the risk of the individual vulnerabilities within a CPU, got good marks from Shulman for effort, but he says the company still has a long way to go to give customers enough information on what needs patching first.

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"It's all still confusing," says Shulman. "What am I going to do with the pre-announcement? And once I see the CPU, how do I find out if I'm vulnerable or not? You can't get that from the pre-announcement, and you can barely get that from the CPU.

He also dinged Oracle for its risk rankings, saying that they were too low. "Oracle has the tendency to lower the vulnerability ranking. The most serious of this CPU is [ranked] 7 out of 10. But most every security expert would have ranked that one much higher."

Danish vulnerability tracker Secunia, for example, rated the overall CPU as "highly critical," its second-from-the-top mark.

One patch didn't make it into the CPU. "An issue was detected with one of the database fixes for a number of database versions," said Eric Maurice, Oracles' security manager, in a blog entry Tuesday. "Per our policy, which is intended to ensure that all customers have an equal security posture, we removed the fix from the January CPU." The omitted patch may be released in the next Oracle security update, which will appear April 17.