Thought for the day: Security vulnerablities: A fact of life?

As Microsoft announces yet another "critical" flaw and releases yet another patch, Simon Moores wonders whether the...

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As Microsoft announces yet another "critical" flaw and releases yet another patch, Simon Moores wonders whether security flaws are a problem we are just going to have to learn to live with.




Just when you might have started to believe that Microsoft had ironed out vulnerabilities in Internet Information Server on Windows 2000 - a reason for so many customers are choosing Apache - along comes a "critical" problem that makes you wonder if life is simply one long series of security "patches" in between new product releases.

There is, however, a small ray of sunshine in this news, and it’s linked closely with Microsoft’s much publicised Trustworthy Computing Initiative (TWC).

Living up to the promise of being proactive rather than defensive or even, paranoid over vulnerabilities, this time Microsoft bent over backwards to let customers and cynical hacks like me know that there was a serious problem and when the patch would be made available.

Apparently, this particular vulnerability - a flawed implementation of the World Wide Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) protocol in IIS - was discovered last Wednesday, and since then the company has been working flat out on the remedy.

On reflection, this is good news, because it demonstrates to customers that Microsoft is acting in good faith and in line with its TWC commitment.  It appears to have left behind the culture of obsessive secrecy, which made it a close second to the Downing Street press office.

Is this a new and more communicative Microsoft? Only time will tell. Perhaps customers are more worried by the prospect of the many unknown vulnerabilities yet to surface, as there is no evidence yet of any slow down in the problem and won’t be until everyone is using the latest and most-up-to-date versions of Microsoft software from XP.

But that isn’t going to happen for a very long time. Microsoft will always have to carry with it the millions of customers who are entirely happy with Windows 95, Windows NT and, dare I say it, even Windows 2000.

Security vulnerabilities are a fact of life. We have to learn to live with them regardless of the operating system we choose. So, perhaps the world will come to an end before secure computing becomes reality and solves Microsoft’s problem.

What do you think?

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Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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