With the latest virus to hit our desktops, Simon Moores is having a sense of déjà vu and asks if it's time that Microsoft includes anti-virus software in its products.
The day after a bank holiday is the worst possible time to call any large company’s customer service desk, particularly when the Sasser worm is wreaking havoc quite freely around enterprise UK.
I’m finally wrapping up my house move to the coast, and I’ve been calling through all those companies which appear as a monthly direct debit on my bank statement.
For the past two years, I’ve been trying to aggregate as many as possible, so British Gas now provides electricity and gas, Vodafone channels my mobile, business and residential call charges, and BT? Well, BT, bless them, bills me for something called recurring charges but not phone calls.
Anyway, Vodafone tells me that it has a computer problem and recommends I call back Thursday and BT and British Gas seem a little slow, which is being kind.
Of course, it’s not as bad as Blaster, as most businesses learned a salutary lesson last August. But Sasser continues to cause the kind of embarrassment that Microsoft could do without, even though it does appear not cause any permanent damage to files or machines, it has simply caused some PCs to crash repetitively and reboot - thought to be the result of dodgy programming by its author rather than an intentional "feature".
You were warned, says Microsoft, because it’s now three weeks since the company revealed the flaw that Sasser exploited - a Windows function called Local Security Authority Subsystem Service. More than 150 million people successfully downloaded the security patch before this weekend's outbreak, it said.
Interestingly enough, a recent experiment at the ANCL (Advanced Network Computing Laboratory) at a US university had a series of clean Windows XP workstations connected to a live, non-firewalled internet connection.
It’s been reported that more than a dozen iterations, the average time for this workstation to be compromised by any malware exploit, was three hours, with the fastest measured time of 20 minutes. Their experimenters' concluded that “it’s not if they’ll find your vulnerable points anymore, it’s only how fast”.
Two weeks ago, a story in Microsoft’s local paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, quoted Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith as saying Microsoft "to date" has made no decision about whether to include anti-virus in future Windows versions.
With many computers unprotected, some might say it would be responsible for the company to incorporate anti-virus capabilities into Windows. But doing so could give rise to claims over the competitive impact.
The reporter, Todd Bishop, followed up the anti-virus debate with a poll last week and, apparently, 76.8% of the respondents believed that Microsoft should make anti-virus software a feature of Windows.
So consumers, in Seattle at least, want to see anti-virus as a component of Windows but the cynics out there are muttering that even if Microsoft were to risk taking on the combined might of the anti-virus industry, they rather doubt that this would solve the persistent problems of living in a self-inflicted software monoculture.
As Tuesday drew to its business close, I still could not get through to the local council tax call centre, and the bank on the corner where I withdrew a £100 at lunchtime confirms that they are having problems with a cashpoint which only gave me £40.
Evidence of Sasser throttling Windows behind the scenes, perhaps, or simply evidence of a paranoid imagination?
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