Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Whinge, whinge...

When Microsoft does something wrong, there is a deafening roar when the anti-MS crowd take up their loudhailers and scream to the world that Microsoft is evil. But when Microsoft does something right, those same people roar again that Microsoft is being anti-competitive and abusing the monopoly. I'm sorry guys, you can't have it both ways...

The latest subject that the anti-MS crowd are going nuts about is the PatchGuard system that has been included in Windows Vista. This new feature is an attempt by Microsoft to stop malicious programs having access to the kernel of Vista and creating all sorts of havoc. Finally Microsoft are implementing a security feature that nearly all other mainstream operating systems have in place.

Enter Symantecand McAfee, two anti-virus software vendors that have built a good profitable business on protecting Windows users from malicious programs and viruses, have started complaining about the move towards a more secure Windows kernel. My personal experience with some of the products that Symantec and McAfee produce has always eneded with pain and a reformat. Software that doesn't remove itself fully when you ask it to be uninstall is a fundamental sin in my mind.

An article from Ars Technica regarding Symantec's attack on Microsoft:
Symantec and Microsoft have always had an uneasy relationship: the former depends on the latter for a platform for its products, yet often finds itself in direct competition with the software giant. Now, with Microsoft's new operating system Vista still on pace for release in January 2007, Symantec is warning that the OS may harm it and other security software companies. In a statement released today, Symantec communications director Chris Paden said that Vista will "reduce consumer choice" when it comes to computer security.

Paden's beef is with the new Windows Security Center, an update to the control panel that made its first appearance with Windows XP's Service Pack 2. He claims that the interface comes with default programs to handle virus protection, a software firewall, and a spyware scanner, and that the user can install replacements for these applications but not access them through the security center program.

At least as of Windows Vista RC1, some of his claims are true, but not all of them. A clean install of Vista does come with a firewall (based on an enhanced version of the Windows XP SP2 firewall) and anti-spyware courtesy of Windows Defender, but does not come with any anti-virus software (the Security Center complains about this via an orange shield with an exclamation point in the taskbar notification area, and urges the user to install a third-party AV program). The default Windows Vista "Welcome Center" contains an icon to subscribe to Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare, which includes AV support, but the icon is not visible from the Security Center. As far as the firewall and anti-spyware applications go, the Security Center doesn't appear to have any easily-accessible way to swap out these programs for third-party equivalents. Indeed, the firewall panel even warns that "Two or more firewalls running at the same time can conflict with each other."

This article from Reuters about McAfee taking out a full page ad that attacks Microsoft:
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Microsoft is working to hamstring software companies trying to overcome "inherent weaknesses" in Windows security, rival McAfee Inc. charged in a full-page ad in Monday's Financial Times.

McAfee, Symantec and other security software companies argue Microsoft's new Vista operating system will make it more difficult to protect customers because for the first time, they have been denied access to the core of the operating system.

Microsoft says it may withhold shipping Vista to European Union states when it distributes the operating system next month to computer makers and companies, out of concern about enforcement action. But no decision has been made.

"Our goal is to deliver a fully innovative, secure version of Windows Vista that is compliant with EU law. We have an ongoing and constructive dialogue with the Commission on these issues," a Microsoft spokesman said.

McAfee's ad echoes comments by Symantec officials in a recent interview that Microsoft has withdrawn cooperation as it moves to substitute their security software with its own, giving its own product a leg-up in Windows.

They say they are denied access to the heart of the operating system through built-in software locks, which makes it much harder to protect.

I really think that Symantec and McAfee can fuck off and die. Their reliance on a flaw in the older Windows kernels has allowed them to create a business based on the very insecurities that they are setting out to protect the users from. This is a questionable position to sit in and is bound to end in disaster from the outset. Now, when they see their whole business plan going down the drain, instead of coming up with another way to secure Windows, they go running to the EU and see if they can get some protection from them. Losers.

A comment on Digg says it much better than I ever could:
What the text should have said:

"We at McAfee have a serious problem. We bitched and moaned for over a decade about the lack of security in Microsoft Windows. We even built a business on cleaning up after them. So after all the years and all of the nasty comments we had made, imagine our surprise when Microsoft actually tightened security and even provided their own anti-virus software. Well we're kind of in a bad place spot now. While Microsoft has essentially done what we have asked, they have also pretty much put us out of business.

So we would like to ask you, the consumer, to take pity on us and convince Microsoft to not give you something for free that you could pay us for. Thanks :)"

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