Microsoft is gearing up to release patches for a record number of security vulnerabilities affecting a range of its products, including the latest iteration of Windows and Office.

The Redmond company will plug almost 50 security holes in Windows and Internet Explorer, as well as in the Office productivity suite and the .NET Framework.

The security bulletins will be released next week, on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 as a part of the software giant’s patch cycle.

“This month as part of our predictable security update process we are releasing 16 comprehensive bulletins addressing 49 vulnerabilities,” revealed Carlene Chmaj, Microsoft Security Response Senior Communications Manager. More »

Although Microsoft doesn’t normally deliver support for pre-release software, there are exceptions to this rule, and an update designed to resolve issues related to Taskbar functionality in Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) Beta and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 is an illustrative example in this regard.

The Redmond company also offers support for pre-RTM products when it comes down to patching Critical security vulnerabilities that would put users at risk from attacks and exploits.

However, the update released in the second half of August 2010 is not intended to patch a security flaw.

Instead “this update addresses an issue in which the thumbnail controls for some applications are not displayed on the taskbar. After you install this update, you may have to restart your system,” Microsoft stated.

According to the little information provided by the software giant, the refresh is capable of enabling “the thumbnail controls of certain applications to be displayed correctly on the taskbar in Windows 7 or in Windows Server 2008 R2.”

And although the company doesn’t mention Windows 7 SP1 Beta and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Beta in the Knowledge Base article, the releases on the Microsoft Download Center reveal that early adopters running the public Beta of the first upgrade for the two platforms should also deploy the update.

Windows 7 SP1 Beta was released to testers in the first half of July 2010, and continues to be available for download to the public.

As it released Windows 7 SP1 Beta, Microsoft made it clear that it planned to wrap up and deliver the RTM bits of the service pack in the first half of 2011, most probably in the first quarter of next year, rather than by the end of 2010, as previously speculated.

Following the release of Windows 7 Service Pack (SP1) Beta Build 7601.16562.100603-1800, work on the upgrade continued, with Microsoft having reportedly released a new interim version of the service pack to TAP and OEMs.

The software giant confirmed that Windows 7 SP1 Beta Refresh Build 7601.17077 indeed shipped to a select pool of testers.

Windows 7 Service Pack (SP1) Beta Build 7601.16562.100603-1800 is available for download here.

Here are the download links for KB2259539:

All supported x86-based versions of Windows 7

All supported x64-based versions of Windows 7

All supported x64-based versions of Windows Server 2008 R2

All supported IA-64-based versions of Windows Server 2008 R2

Microsoft will release patches for no less than 34 security vulnerabilities in a range of its products next week. The Redmond company revealed that it plans to introduce no less than 14 security bulletins as a part of its normal patch cycle, with the June security bulletin release scheduled for Tuesday, August 10. The upcoming availability of the massive number of security bulletins will mark a new record for the Redmond company, as the software giant has never released 14 patch packages in a single month before.

“For those who keep track of such things, this will be the most bulletins we have ever released in a month; we have released 13 bulletins on a couple of occasions. However, in total CVE count, this release ties with June 2010, so there’s no new record there,” revealed Angela Gunn, Security Response Communications Manager. More »

Microsoft slapped Apple in more ways than one during the company’s recent Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2010 event. After it mocked the iPhone 4 calling it “their Vista,” Kevin Turner, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer, also noted that Microsoft’s software is superior in terms of security to that from Apple. The Redmond and Cupertino companies are locked in a relentless face-off, incessantly comparing products.

One of the main Apple marketing techniques designed to push the Cupertino company’s products over those of Microsoft was to claim that they offered better security. To this very day, one of the tactics used to sell Mac machines is to advertise an operating system that is not vulnerable to Windows malware. But malicious code aside, Turner emphasized that Apple’s software products are riddled with security vulnerabilities. Moreover, Microsoft’s COO pointed the finger at Apple software for being plagued by more security flaws than Microsoft’s products.

“And so we’ve got so much innovation, and it’s coming faster, and faster, and faster. We’ve got execution excellence in our product groups. We’re putting out some of the highest quality products in the history of Microsoft right now. And the number one product that we’ve ever produced from a quality standpoint, this will be no surprise in this room, is Windows 7, highest quality product we’ve ever put out. That’s all from customer feedback,” he stated.

“And when you look at one of the last surveys that I saw in the marketplace, Microsoft is not at the top on vulnerabilities and exceptions anymore. Number one is Apple. Number two is Oracle. They can have that first place mantle all they want as it relates to defects and vulnerabilities. That’s the only thing we’re going to give them. We’re delivering this innovation, and we’re committed to it,” Turner noted. (emphasis added)

Microsoft’ COO was citing data from a recent report published by Secunia. According to Secunia Half Year Report 2010, Apple is indeed the maker of the most vulnerable software available on the market today. Moreover, Secunia made it clear that Apple software has constantly accounted for more security vulnerabilities than Microsoft’s. Still, the Redmond company’s huge market share works in the detriment of the software giant, as Microsoft’s software is attracting the vast majority of attacks, despite being less vulnerable than Apple’s.

“Oracle (including Sun Microsystems and BEA Logic) ranked #1 in four out of five years overtaken by Apple in the first half of 2010, with Apple consistently ranking higher than Microsoft. Despite increased investments into the security of their products, none of the seven vendors who occupied the Top-10 group in 2005 as well asin 2010 managed to decrease the number of vulnerabilities discovered in their products. On the contrary, the vulnerability count of each of these seven vendors has increased to reach in 2009 between 136% and 440% of the 2005 count,” Secunia stated in the report.

“This analysis also supports the general perception that a high market share correlates with a high number of vulnerabilities. Apple (iTunes, Quicktime), Microsoft (Windows, Internet Explorer), and Sun Microsystems (Java, now part of Oracle) consistently occupy the top ranks during the last fi ve years, with Adobe (Acrobat Reader, Flash) joining the group in 2008. The ranking shown in Figure 2 does not indicate the actual security (or lack thereof) in the different vendors products; it rather shows that vulnerabilities continue to be discovered in significant numbers in products from even the largest and most popular vendors including those who spend significant resources on improving the security of their products,” Secunia added.