Say it with Flowers

“Ouch”. Just when you might have started to believe that Microsoft had ironed-out the nastier vulnerabilities in Internet Information Server on Windows 2000, a reason for so many customers 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 around, Microsoft ‘bent-over-backwards’ to let customers and cynical hacks like me know that there was a serious problem and at what time the patch would be available on Monday evening. 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 ‘all hands on deck’ working on the remedy.

On reflection, this is good news because it demonstrates to customers, that Microsoft is acting in good faith, in line with its TWC commitment and 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? Time will tell and 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 up. That isn’t going to happen for a very long time, as 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, like the NHS are a fact of life we have to learn to live with regardless of the Operating System we choose. It’s reminiscent of the 'Carter Catastrophe' theory. So perhaps the world will come to an end before secure computing becomes any closer to reality and solve Microsoft’s problem.


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