Skip to main content
Between the Forest & The Trees

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts--for support rather than for illumination". Andre Lang

Even Tony Blair would find it hard to argue against a 75% disapproval rating and a Forrester report, ‘Can Microsoft Be Secure’ reveals that 77% of IT managers in companies with a $1billion turnover, list security as their principal concern and remain to be convinced by Microsoft’s ‘Trustworthy Computing’ security message.

In fact, the overall view of Microsoft’s progress isn’t as negative as one might suspect from the banner headlines. I’m presently putting the finishing touches to a thirty-five page investigation of my own on the topic of ‘Trustworthy Computing’ and many of Forrester’s conclusions mirror what I have found elsewhere in taking a critical look at what Microsoft is attempting to achieve. Forrester, like Aberdeen Research and Symantec’s most recent ‘Internet Threat Report’, broadly support the argument that Microsoft has been unfairly criticised for its efforts around ‘Trustworthy Computing’ and that its record is "both better and more complicated than conventional wisdom suggests”.



Regardless of present concerns surrounding the overall security of the Windows platform, 89% of the Forrester respondents rely on Microsoft’s products for use the software for sensitive applications. The research shows however that "too few firms are taking responsibility for securing their Windows systems,” with 40% of respondents not planning to make security improvements and only 59% of those who admitted to a security breach in the past making changes to the way they use Microsoft software. This leaves rather too high a gap of 40% among those companies who clearly haven’t learned from previous experience.

My own research suggests that a significant problem lies in the absence of true standardisation across platforms and security solutions. As the many thousands of published vulnerabilities illustrate, not having installed the very latest version of a software application or a Service Pack or patch leaves a system open to compromise and even the most up-to-date infrastructure has no certainty of immunity unless it is isolated and physically locked-down. Forrester, recommends Microsoft work more closely with independent software vendors (ISVs) to make sure that its patches work against applications.

Forrester notes, as has Computer Weekly, that designing a patch that won't crash an operating system is one thing, but designing one that is also safe for the applications running on top of it is another. The report also points out that while Microsoft's patches for the last nine high-profile Windows security holes predated such attacks by an average of 305 days, too few customers applied the fixes because "administrators lacked both the confidence that a patch won't bring down a production system and the tools and time to validate “Microsoft's avalanche of patches”.

In the end, it’s all a matter of confidence building and clearly, that confidence doesn’t yet exist on the part of IT managers worried by information security or the lack of it. Microsoft argues that it is constantly improving and the evidence supports this but it is confronted with two very real problems. The first being a high percentage of customers who still fail to remediate their systems in the light of previous experience and the second being the” time and tools objection”, which suggests that the regular patching process represents a significant cost and source of business interruption to Microsoft’s customers.

In a perfect world, all software would interoperate perfectly; everyone would work within a BS/ISO 17799 security framework and would be running the most up-to-date products. If it were needed, patching would be seamless and would not involve any business interruption.

Unfortunately, our world is rather different and the consistency, which both confidence and security demand, simply doesn’t exist. This makes Microsoft’s task difficult to the extent that without stronger support from customers and ISVs, it can only hope to steadily improve the present situation rather than solve the many different security challenges facing the company this side of 2010.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…
A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.



I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…