An Evening of Sensual Art

I’m confused” said the man from Microsoft, as a young woman in the audience pressed an invitation to an evening of ‘sensual art’ into his hands.

This was an evening event to mark the launch of eCademy’s Microsoft.Net club and guest of honour was Microsoft’s Scott Charney, the company’s Chief Trustworthy Computing Strategist.

The eCademy network strikes me as an unusual place to launch a Microsoft club of any kind but Jonathan Greensted, whose idea it is, constantly reminded the audience that he runs a company called Sentient which has been doing “clever stuff with Microsoft enterprise software for the past ten years”,

Greensted , I suspect, is a bit of a Microsoft fan and there were hidden clues in his speech. “I love Microsoft software, I love Microsoft, and Microsoft has been very good to me. The Microsoft and .NET club is a place for me to share the love around, adding thoughtfully, “Where Windows NT 3.1 truly sucked, ten years on we now have Windows Server 2003 which is earth shatteringly and gob smackingly brilliant”.

At this point, we might have expected Scott Charney to pop out of a cake but instead, he delivered an amusing and well-oiled speech on Microsoft’s plans for the future of trustworthy computing. One analogy in particular captured my attention.

Should we turn on firewalls or make Windows Update mandatory”, asked Charney rhetorically. He then contrasted the debate that is raging around information security with that which surrounds smoking in public places.

Smoking, he pointed out has direct and indirect costs and the cost of healthcare is one of these. You have the right to smoke, to kill yourself but not your neighbour and it was not so long ago that people could smoke freely on aircraft and trains and restaurants, until that is, a link was discovered between passive smoking and cancer.

There is a parallel with the Internet today, argues Charney. Until very recently, most PC’s connected to the Internet were using dial-up connections. It was up to you whether you chose to switch-on the firewall or use anti-virus software and if you did not, then the consequences of not doing so were yours alone.

Today, says Charney, it’s a different matter because so many of us, two million in the UK alone, are connected to the Internet over Broadband. Broadband is different because it acts as a platform for attacks on other people through open-relays and open-proxies and as a result and like the risk of passive smoking, what may be described as negligence, a failure to take reasonable security precautions on your own machine can present direct or indirect consequences on another Internet user.

Charney has an interesting point. BT has given me an off-the-record figure for the number of Broadband related problems of this kind they have been dealing with and it’s not healthy. Ironically, as I write this column, BT has a recorded message for its BT Connect users, telling them why the service is experiencing problems, a consequence of the latest SWEN worm.

Microsoft says Charney, recognises that it has to re-think the social issues that confront an online society and how a new social fabric can be recreated around a safer Internet. A good start would be much better patch-management and Charney promises that the end of the year a much improved solution to the problem of dealing with so many security updates.

I’ll leave you with “The Microsoft and .NET to share the love around”. I’m sure that makes you feel much better.


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