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Microsoft security updates

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TheChas

Yes, you can manually download most patches and deploy them across multiple computers.

I burn a CD and deploy patches for my clients that have only dial up available.

There are 3 methods to get the updates.
Subscribe to the TechNet Security Email.
That way, you get email notification of security updates and links to the related knowledge base articles. Most of the articles have links to downloads for the patches.

The next method is to use the Windows Update Catalog.

http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/catalog/en/default.asp?allowv4cat=true

This page allows you to download some patches that are not available from download links.

The final method is to use the Downloads page at Microsoft.com and select the downloads you need.

As to your main question, even with a firewall, there are risks that exploit security holes that can get past a firewall. I would not connect an unpatched system to a network.

As to your secondary question, there is no way to fully test all the ways that the code in an operating system could be comprised. As with any product, there are always things that could be done to make it better. There comes a point where the cost of development exceeds the expected return on the product.

Chas