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Why We Love Microsoft 15 February 2002 Edition
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I've been trying very hard to find non-Microsoft topics to write about this week, but it's become a real challenge -- Bill and his boys have "kick me" written all over them.

Since rolling out their "Trustworthy Computing" initiative with much fanfare and some very bold claims, a virtual tsunami of holes and vulnerabilities have been reported.

The latest, and perhaps most embarrassing example is a new hole that has turned up in the company's C++ compiler, an integral part of the .NET toolkit which was officially released just this week. (see the news links below)

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The most worrying thing about this latest hole is that if it hadn't been discovered and reported by an independent security expert, it could have resulted in many "insecure" applications being unknowingly launched by other developers.

Now one must assume that this new compiler must have passed the stringent new security auditing that Microsoft has made so much noise about -- uh-oh!

It would appear the assertion I made recently, suggesting that Microsoft was simply out of its depth here and that no amount of goodwill could compensate for a lack of understanding or raw ability in the area of security, is already looking pretty damned accurate.

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    Then there's the way that a security update for IE6 was posted to the company's website -- and pulled down again within 24 hours due to "problems."

    I wonder who audited that one?

    Now surely Microsoft's clear inability to back up its promises over security with some real results must spell the death of its long-planned intention to become a universal authenticator and repository of people's data on the Net?

    Don't bank on it -- my money is still on the average punter being so dull and stupid as to ignore the obvious and rely on the company's inevitable claims that "we are now secure."

    An Aardvark reader asked an interesting question: why do people keep buying Microsoft's bloated, expensive, insecure software when there are equivalent open-source alternatives available absolutely free of charge?

    Well the answer is simple...

    Microsoft, like most big companies, spends a shirtload of money on very clever marketing -- downplaying bugs and problems while simultaneously hyping up the newest features on offer.

    Take the release of Windows XP for example. The incredibly expensive and thorough advertising campaign that accompanied the product's launch created a massive level of awareness amongst your "average" computer user. There probably isn't a single person between the ages of 10 and 60 who doesn't know that XP is a Microsoft product which is [allegedly] better, faster and more fun to use than anything else.

    Ask those same people "what is Linux?" or "what is Star Office?" and 90 percent of them will stare blankly at you and say "I dunno."

    Unfortunately, open-source software's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. When you're giving a product away, nobody can afford to spend a similar shirtload of money to that which Microsoft allocates to marketing.

    That so many users of open-source software are very satisfied with the products is a clear indication that the reason most people are using MS Windows/Office is simply a lack of awareness and understanding. Sadly, there is no simple (aka "cheap") way to address this problem.

    PC World, Netguide and other computer/Net magazines can publish pro-open-source software articles until they're blue in the face -- but the vast majority of computer users, the masses which give Microsoft its control of the desktop, prefer to read the Woman's Weekly, the Listener or NZ Fishing magazine. To them, computers are just a tool -- like their cellphone or toaster.

    People prefer to buy brands they've heard of and know something about -- this is why some products command an unreasonable premium -- simply because the manufacturer has spent their own shirtload of money promoting their name in the marketplace.

    Example: Why on earth to people continue to spend huge amounts of money buying Coca Cola when it's really just a bottle of sugared water with some flavouring?

    Why do people pay huge amounts of money for Nike or other "brand name" sports shoes when we know that other, equally good "no-name" products can be had for half the price?

    The answer: Both Coca Cola and Nike spend incredibly large amounts of money marketing their products and brands as being somehow "better" than the cheaper alternatives -- and people are stupid enough to believe them!

    Now, do you really think that the "average" computer user is going to believe that any "free" software can be as good as the expensive Microsoft product they've just paid hundreds of dollars for?

    And, after all, Microsoft must know all about security because they are the world's most successful software company aren't they?

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    Security Alerts
    MS server bugs open the door to hackers (ZDNet - 12/02/2002)

    IE bug allows full MSN Messenger hijack (TheRegister - 9/02/2002)

    Mac Office vulnerable, Microsoft warns (AAP - 07/02/2002)

    BlackIce Firewalls Vulnerable To DOS Attack NewsBytes - 6/02/2002)

    MIRC Chat Users Vulnerable To New Attack (NewsBytes - 4/02/2002)

    Virus Alerts
    New MSN Messenger Worm (NewsBytes - 14/02/2002)

    Klez worm reborn as nastier version (ZDNet - 13/02/2002)

    Gigger worm can format Windows PCs (The Reg - 11/01/2002)

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    The Day's Top News
    Open in New Window = open in new window
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    Open in New Window Computer crime police increased
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    Open in New Window U.S.: Cyber Strike Could Earn Military Response
    The United States' top cyber security advisor has warned that an online attack by a foreign government or terrorist group could bring a reply in the form of real-world cannon, tanks and bombers...

    Open in New Window Keygen routine producing valid WinXP product keys?
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    Open in New Window How excess legislation will kill your freedom of expression
    lending a book to a friend is still all right, but letting him read the same book electronically is now a theft...
    New Architect

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