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If at First you Don't Succeed, Try Management

People don't make the same mistake twice; they frequently make it three, four or five times.

News that Microsoft will be wrapping a competitive advantage label around its Trustworthy Computing strategy, rather took me by surprise this week. After all, claiming to have a competitive advantage in the information security space normally implies that one has several volumes of supporting evidence, errr, rather like demonstrating that Internet Explorer is as solid as the rock of Gibraltar, when of course we know that the company’s efforts to fix this month’s latest ‘serious’ vulnerability has revealed a second equally dangerous weakness, on fully patched copies of Windows.

In fact, Netcraft report that more than one hundred Web servers are still distributing the "Scob" malicious code, first identified two weeks ago as code used in a widespread attack to plant Trojan horse programs on vulnerable computers. That attack used compromised Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) Web servers to distribute the Trojan horse programs

From Microsoft’s perspective, no matter how much you do, you never do enough and as hard as it tries to lock-down its products, it seems quite unable to keep pace with the number of new exploits that appear on an almost weekly basis.

Newer products, such as Windows Server 2003 have a pretty solid reputation by now and in that respect, the competitive advantage claim holds water but as one police officer pointed out to me in a conversation last week, at last, we have reached the point where Windows NT offers a pretty secure and reliable environment and perhaps we need to accept that product cycles need to be much slower than the vendors would wish them to be; driven as they are by Wall Street and their shareholders.

On a personal note and given a consistent series of delays and broken promises, I believe the last thing Steve Ballmer should be doing at present is declare that Microsoft is in a better position than its rivals in offering a jaded audience secure, trustworthy and above all confident computing. After all, I haven’t even received Service Pack 2 for Windows XP yet and when I do, I’m dreading the installation process for fear of something breaking my laptop and leaving me paralysed until I identify the problem. Rumours of backward compatibility “issues” have given me the jitters and most of us have experienced the risks involved in applying Service Packs in the past.

A wise man once said that “All things are possible except skiing through a revolving door” but perhaps he hadn’t thought too deeply over combining ‘Windows’, ‘competitive advantage’ and ‘security’ in a plausible and convincing sentence.


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