Wild West tactic hides the truth

Microsoft's offer of a £300,000 bounty for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the computer hackers responsible...

Microsoft's offer of a £300,000 bounty for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the computer hackers responsible for the MSBlast and Sobig viruses sounds like a desperate act.

The FBI and the US Secret Service have spent months investigating the attacks, which brought hundreds of thousands of computers to a halt over the summer. But so far they have little to show for it - two virus writers have been arrested for releasing modified versions of the virus code, but the criminals that masterminded the original virus remain at large.

IT directors have been urging Microsoft to improve the quality of its software testing, and to build good security into its products from the design stage, for years.

The Blaster worm was only a threat because it exploited weaknesses in Windows - a fact that will not be lost on the Computer Weekly readers who spent sleepless nights trying to repair the damage.

Microsoft's bounty offer has thrown the spotlight back on computer criminals, but amid the media glare, we should not forget that the IT profession, suppliers and law enforcement agencies must take their share of the blame.

If our software is riddled with vulnerabilities, our police forces are underfunded, and security polices are badly implemented, what right do we have to be surprised when viruses bring our systems down ?

Microsoft's offer of a $300,000 bounty is a desperate act. With its Wild West overtones, it risks glamourising virus writing and making it more attractive to impressionable youngsters.

Could Novell open the desktop to Linux?

The news that Novell has become the first large operating system company to buy a Linux supplier could smooth the path to open source software being installed on many more desktops.

Novell has a global installed base of millions who use its Netware network operating system, but its sales figures have seen little growth since the turn of the millennium. If existing Netware users are offered a relatively painless migration to Linux, Novell may be able to dissuade them from moving towards Microsoft.

It would also provide companies with a more accessible route to Linux facilitated by a company that has years of experience of working with both SMEs and global organisations that may have have baulked at taking the risk of moving to Linux.

Read more on Microsoft Windows software

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