Silent updating is generally seen as a big improvement to security on the Internet; just take a look at the study done at the Swiss Technical University ETH by Stefan Frei. Being on the newest possible Internet Explorer (IE8 on WIndows XP, IE9 on Vista/Win7) brings a significant increase in security and robustness to malware infections due to better architecture, sandboxing and the included URL filtering feature.
Microsoft is not alone in moving to silent updates. It follows Google's Chrome browser which pioneered the concept of silent updating in 2009, and more recently Mozilla Firefox has revealed that they are working on a "Firefox Updater Service" that will allow for silent updates as well. Overall this change is in line with the new update mechanisms coming in Windows 8, which will make the overall update experience much smoother for Windows users.
As expected, Enterprise users that control their patches tightly will not be affected by the change; they will continue to have full control over the versions of their browsers. For anybody interested in staying on their old browser, Blocker Toolkits for both IE8 and IE9 upgrades are available for download at Microsoft and their settings will continue to be honored.
The roll out starts in Australia and Brazil in January 2012 and I am looking forward to see the feedback data from Microsoft on what the level of success will be.
Author: Wolfgang Kandek, CTO, Qualys.