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Applying CF security hotfixes: do it from oldest to newest (depending!)

Note: This blog post is from 2011. Some content may be outdated--though not necessarily. Same with links and subsequent comments from myself or others. Corrections are welcome, in the comments. And I may revise the content as necessary.
If you may be applying several security hotfixes to a new implementation of CF (or one where none have been applied before), you may wonder if there's any significance to applying them in either chronological order (newest to oldest, or oldest to newest). The technotes don't really clarify this.

Update: Great news. It turns out that just days before I wrote this entry in late 2011, Adobe had in fact addressed and resolved this problem (quietly, I'd say) by making security fixes written from Dec 2011 (apsb11-29) on now have 2 sets of steps, one for if you HAD applied the security hotfix previous to it, and one for if you HAD NOT. And this has proven to be the case for the next few, as I write this update in late 2012. So we can now consider them effectively "cumulative", for those from Dec 2011, on. You need only focus on the latest, and follow either of its 2 provided sets of steps.

That said, I'm not 100% sure if all those from Dec 2011 include all ones prior to that. Has anyone tested things to know?

I'll leave the rest of the note below here for posterity, but stricken out.

I will propose that they should be done from oldest to newest. Here's why.

If you look at the list of CF security hotfixes offered here, you may wonder whether to start with the most recent ones, or the oldest ones. If you look at their respective technotes and zip files closely, you may find that some are truly independent of the others. But it's also a reality that some do supercede the others. That may be obvious to some, but I wanted to offer a case in point.

Consider the hotfixes for APSB11-14 and APSB11-04. If you look at the zips for these, you may notice that they offer a few files (in the web-inf/lib directory) that appear identical in name (log4j.properties, esapi.properties, validation.properties, commons-fileupload-1.2.jar, and so on.) If you had applied the later one first, you may then wonder if it's significant if you then want to apply the older one.

Well, those files are in fact identical (I did a compare). But the files in the CFIDE associated with each hotfix are in fact quite different and so the later ones would supercede the earlier ones.

So you would NOT want to do them in the wrong order (older before newer). It's just not always clear from the technotes whether this is an issue to worry about, so I wanted to share it here.

This is not the place for discussion of how complicated CF hotfixes are. That's been discussed to death in many places. If you didn't know, Adobe is indeed addressing the problem in the next release, currently code-named Zeus. You can read about this and 50 other currently publcized Zeus features in a talk I did. And note that they have said they will be back-porting some of that to earlier releases.

Hope it's helpful to someone. If you may have a different experience or opinion about the order of applying security hotfixes, feel free to share it.

PS I have written previously about easy mistakes you can make in applying any CF hotfixes, and how to avoid them. See CF911: Are you finding CF (or CF Admin) busted after applying a hotfix? A few possible reasons. I have also written about the challenges of trying to "skip" cumulative hotfixes. You may want to read them if you've not yet done so.

But again, please hold off on any comments about the complications of CF hotfixes. There's nothing more to do than deal with the situation as it is and await Adobe offering a better solution.

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