Will Bill?

I had expected the message to appear from a burning bush or even one or two tablets of stone but in fact, Bill Gates ‘Security Progress Report” was almost lost when my Outlook client decided to treat it as ‘dodgy’ and file it under deleted mail.

Bill’s message presses all the right buttons. Microsoft is doing better, trying harder and is ever so more humble than at any time in its history. It’s investing zillions in remediating its software and is supporting any initiative which encourages business and the public to avoid the danger of digitally communicated diseases.

So why are we still in a mess?

Consultancy mi2G tell us that in the first quarter of 2004, the economic damage from malware - virus, worm and Trojan - proliferation alone reached an all time high of between $122bn and $150bn worldwide, dwarfing the impact from malware throughout 2003, when the damage was estimated to have been between $82bn and $100bn worldwide.

Where mi2G gets its figures from is a constant mystery to me and many others but we can all agree that that the last twelve months have been expensive and that Microsoft is seen to carry much if not most of responsibility for the problem.

This isn’t always fair because in a number of areas such as social engineering attacks, such as MyDoom, people, still open suspicious attachments and believe that a 1999 copy of Norton anti-virus will keep them safe from the latest threats.

Bill Gates writes bravely of the future and downstream Microsoft technologies which demand “fundamentally new thinking about software quality, continuous improvement in tools and processes”. However, the basics need to be sorted out before we start star gazing into the future. As an example, I have a wireless network at home and I can't get WEP encryption to work properly on Windows XP, which should be seamless. As I take the train to London with my wireless card plugged into my laptop, other people's networks pop up as I pass through the towns.

Unless Microsoft quickly and creatively sorts out the runaway consumer and SMB security problem, it runs the risk of a catastrophic loss of public confidence when the next big virus or worm comes along. Government is fed-up and so is big business and what we need are immediate solutions to today’s problems and we’ll worry about Microsoft’s next generation of products at a later date.

Meanwhile, the information security industry and Microsoft’s part in it, will continue to draw parallels with of Monty Python's ‘Life of Brian’. “What have Microsoft ever done for us?"



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