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My Insecurity Problem

Between last night and this morning, I wasted 90 minutes on the phone with a hotel's technical support because of troubles using the in-room wireless network. I see the problems as underscoring the challenges Microsoft faces in delivering Windows XP Service Pack 2 and getting businesses and consumers to appropriately adjust behavior.

My problem started before I connected. The updated Windows XP informed me that the network was not secue, meaning it was open, because no WEP was required. So, that led to the first support call and assurances that password and user name at the gateway protected the network. Unconvinced, I pushed up the protection settings on XP's built-in firewall and connected.

But, rather than be prompted for user name and password (I had been given free access for my two-day stay), I could only get access to a page wanting to bill my room. Looks like the Website either wanted to use an ActiveX control, pop-up window or both, which are automatically blocked by Service Pack 2. Call No. 2 to tech support.

To resolve the problem, I had to give out my wireless card's MAC address, which I balked at doing. No choice, if I wanted to connect to the Internet from my room. Finally, after almost 45 minutes I connected to the Internet.

Five minutes later came call No. 3. I couldn't send e-mail, a situation I have never encountered in my travels. This new problem had to do with how the wireless provider had configured its SMTP servers. The tech guy wanted me to just enter the ISP's mail server into the Outlook settings. I refused, and he flipped some switch that got outbound e-mail going. Around 11 p.m., last night sending stopped again.

I waited until this morning to place the fourth call, where I learned the nature of the problem: The hotel redirects all outgoing e-mail to its own SMTP servers. But the process won't work if the e-mail client normally connects to secure SMTP servers, meaning those requiring a user name and password, as mine do. So, the tech support guy wanted me to turn off secure mail, which I refused to do. Later, he turned off the forwarding function, which got e-mail sending again. I'm curious to see how long this will last.

Microsoft is rightly concerned about the problem of unpatched consumer computers, which have been fingered for spreading viruses and spam. But, many businesses continue to use weak security, simply because there is no sound security policy in place. A hotel is a high-touch business, where thousands of computers a day use a network that could expose them to unnecessary risk. I'm aghast at the kind of problems I have had here and frustrated by the amount of time wasted fixing them in patch-up fashion.

I will say this: Service Pack 2 changes raised my overall security awareness and added new layers of protection on this trip. But my experience also is lesson that Microsoft's security effort will be much bigger than making its OS more secure. Companies need to adapt and implement sound security, particularly high-touch businesses like hotels. [via Microsoft Monitor]


Anonymous said…
NOOOOOOOOOO you used microsoft and security in the same sentance *breaks down into tears*...and worse you used windows and security in the same sentance :(((( They just dont go i tell ya!!

Help Desk Software Consultant

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