Security

Windows 10: Microsoft lifts block on security updates after sorting out AV clash

The removal of the AV compatibility checks will mean that patches to mitigate the risk from Spectre and Meltdown attacks released since January will now be available to a wider range of PCs.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Microsoft is removing a check for anti-virus compatibility before rolling out Windows security updates.
  • Patches are being pushed to Windows 7 and 8.1 devices to help guard against Meltdown CPU attacks.

Microsoft is reinstating security updates for the vast majority of Windows 10 machines after resolving an issue with PCs running incompatible anti-virus software.

Windows PCs with incompatible AV software did not receive any security updates in January or February after Microsoft identified a risk of these machines being left unable to boot.

John Cable, director of program management for Windows Servicing and Delivery at Microsoft said Microsoft is now removing the check for AV compatibility, following work with AV vendors to ensure "broad" compatibility with Windows security updates. However, Cable says Microsoft will continue to require that AV software be compatible and will block devices with known issues from receiving Windows updates.

SEE: Information security incident reporting policy (Tech Pro Research)

Microsoft identified the compatibility issue after reports of problems following patches being issued against the Spectre and Meltdown CPU exploits.

Spectre and Meltdown are exploits for vulnerabilities in modern chip design that could allow attackers to bypass system protections on nearly every recent PC, server and smartphone — allowing hackers to read sensitive information, such as passwords, from memory.

The removal of the AV compatibility checks will mean that patches to mitigate the risk from Spectre and Meltdown attacks released since January will now be available to a wider range of PCs, as part of Microsoft's Patch Tuesday update this week.

These patches include Intel's recent firmware update for computers running on a range of recent processors, including those with Skylake, Kaby Lake, and Coffee Lake architectures. The update is designed to guard against Spectre Variant II related attacks. To be eligible to receive the update, computers must be running Windows 10 version 1709 (Fall Creators Update) or Windows Server version 1709 (Server Core). Microsoft provides more information on ways to protect Windows against Spectre and Meltdown here.

Cable says the March Patch Tuesday update will also push fixes to Windows 7 and 8.1 machines to help protect against Meltdown attacks.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/cherezoff

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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