Secure your broadband internet connection, or your machine could have consequences on other internet users, warns Simon Moores.
“I’m confused,” said the man from Microsoft, as a young woman in the audience pressed an invitation to an evening of "sensual art" into his hands.
This was an evening event to mark the launch of Ecademy’s Microsoft .net club and the guest of honour was Microsoft’s Scott Charney, the company’s chief trustworthy computing strategist.
The Ecademy network strikes me as an unusual place to launch a Microsoft club of any kind, but Jonathan Greensted, whose idea it is, constantly reminded the audience that he runs a company called Sentient which has been doing “clever stuff with Microsoft enterprise software for the past 10 years”.
Greensted, I suspect, is a bit of a Microsoft fan, and there were hidden clues in his speech.
“I love Microsoft software, I love Microsoft, and Microsoft has been very good to me. The Microsoft and .net club is a place for me to share the love around," he said.
“Where Windows NT 3.1 truly sucked, 10 years on we now have Windows Server 2003 which is earth shatteringly and gobsmackingly brilliant.”
At this point, we might have expected Scott Charney to pop out of a cake, but instead he delivered an amusing and well-oiled speech on Microsoft’s plans for the future of trustworthy computing. One analogy in particular captured my attention.
“Should we turn on firewalls or make Windows update mandatory?” he asked. He then contrasted the debate that is raging around information security with that which surrounds smoking in public places.
Smoking, he pointed out, has direct and indirect costs and the cost of healthcare is one of these. You have the right to smoke, to kill yourself, but not your neighbour. It was not so long ago that people could smoke freely on aircraft and trains and restaurants, until a link was discovered between passive smoking and cancer.
There is a parallel with that and the internet today, argues Charney. Until very recently, most PC’s connected to the internet were using dial-up connections. It was up to you whether you chose to switch on the firewall or use antivirus software and, if you didn't, then the consequences of not doing so were yours alone.
Today, says Charney, it’s a different matter. So many of us, two million in the UK alone, are connected to the internet over broadband.
Broadband is different because it acts as a platform for attacks on other people through open relays and open proxies, and as a result, like the risk of passive smoking, a failure to take reasonable security precautions on your own machine can present direct or indirect consequences on another internet user.
Charney has an interesting point. BT has given me an off-the-record figure for the number of broadband-related problems of this kind they have been dealing with and it’s not healthy.
Microsoft, says Charney, recognises that it has to rethink the social issues that confront an online society and how a new social fabric can be recreated around a safer internet.
A good start would be much better patch management, and Charney promises that by the end of the year a much improved solution to the problem of dealing with so many security updates.
What do you think?
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Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.
Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.
For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com
This was first published in September 2003