We've been eager to spill the beans about this for weeks, and even hinted at it in a previous story. Today it's official; MS has released a command-line application, HFNetChk, which will scan all NT and/or 2K machines in a network from a single location and compare their currently-installed patches with the latest ones available, making it easy for admins to identify and patch vulnerable machines.
The app was designed by MS Security Program Manager Eric Schultze and executed by Shavlik Technologies. We gave it a whirl over the weekend and it performed as advertised. It covers Win-NT and 2K; IIS 4.0 and 5.0; SQL Server 7.0 and 2000 (including MS Data Engine); and Internet Explorer 5.01 and later.
The tool accesses an XML file, which it downloads automatically, and which contains information such as the files in each patch and their file versions and checksums, registry keys that would be applied by the hotfix, information about which patches supersede others, related Microsoft Knowledge Base article numbers, and the like.
If any of the file or registry details on a scanned machine don't match the information in the XML file, the associated security patch is identified as not installed and the results are displayed on the screen. The corresponding Knowledge Base article number is also displayed.
Switches can be used specify groups of computers to scan, output format, engine speed, types of checks, the location of the XML file and so on, according to the complete instructions, which should be available from MS later today. ®