Microsoft has released an important security tool that all Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows NT 4.0 users should download immediately. Dubbed the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA), the tool looks for common security misconfigurations and presents a security report card with pass/fail grades, best-practices checks, and instructions for fixing security vulnerabilities it finds. MBSA also checks for security problems regarding IIS 5.0 and 4.0, SQL Server 2000 and 7.0, Internet Explorer (IE) 5.01 and later, and Office XP and 2000.

Oddly, you can install and run MBSA only on XP Home and Professional Editions and Win2K servers and workstations. NT 4.0 users must run the tool from a Win2K or XP box and point it at the NT 4.0 machine.

For more information, including the free download and an excellent MBSA technical white paper, visit the Microsoft Web site.