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EDS automates security updates

Services giant says new product tracks patch installations to secure compliance with security updates.

Electronic Data Systems on Wednesday announced a service to help customers track software patches for desktop computers--the latest product meant to ease companies' security woes.

Information technology services giant EDS said the offering is part of a broader array of desktop computer services requiring little human intervention. The patch management piece is now in pilot testing and will be available generally by the fourth quarter of this year, EDS said.

"There's a lot of interest in it, because companies spend a lot of money remediating security breaches," said Kim Stevenson, an executive in EDS' Agile Workplace Services unit.

The importance of computer security was highlighted Tuesday, when Microsoft announced seven new security updates for Windows, including two for vulnerabilities it deemed "critical." On the other hand, a recently released survey of security professionals at nearly 500 companies found that damages related to cyberattacks had declined to about $290,000 per company--down from roughly $380,000 per company a year ago.

EDS is one of several IT services companies that offer to help manage desktop computers. Others include IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Computer Sciences.

EDS said its patch management service enables businesses to know which computers have been updated with appropriate software and which may have received a patch but not installed it. Stevenson said the reporting feature makes EDS' service stand out from competitors'. "There's a lot of pushing" of software patches to users, Stevenson said. "It's knowing the status and ensuring successful deployment."

Last August, EDS launched a flexibly priced service for managing desktop computers and said it helped develop a Microsoft technology called "zero touch."

That software enables upgrades for Windows operating systems to be performed remotely. Tasks for installing Windows 2003, Windows XP and Office XP that previously required manual intervention are now almost totally automated, EDS said.

EDS on Wednesday said it has saved clients up to 30 percent in data migration costs and has increased software installation speed significantly.

Stevenson said that in the event of a new virus, the company can update virus-scanning systems in six hours and deploy patches to computers in 12 hours.