Monday, June 22, 2009

Microsoft May Lose Some Fair-Weather Friends

I read the news of the release of Microsoft Security Essentials with some amusement.

One reason for my amusement is the notion that an operating system should require a separate product to ensure its security instead of having security built into its design.

The other reason is the anticipation of the impact this will have on that group of parasites in the Windows ecosystem. I'm talking about the makers of anti-virus software.

For a long time now, these companies have been less-than-honest players in the industry, revelling in the fact that the inherent vulnerabilities in Windows have given them a steady income stream and acting like they have the best interests of the customer at heart, when in fact they have always fought true advances in computer security that would have put them out of business.

The FUD from these players against Linux has been astounding. A common refrain is that "Linux is only secure because no one uses it. When its profile rises, hackers and malware writers will turn their attention to it." Really? How come IIS used to attract a disproportionate share of web server attacks in spite of Open Source Apache having twice its market share at the time? Surely it's badly-designed systems that invite attack.

These folk even try and sell anti-virus software for Linux! This would certainly fool people who don't realise that Linux itself is the best anti-virus software you can install on your computer. I haven't been hit by malware since 1997, when I first installed Slackware Linux on my PC.

So what will Microsoft's announcement of free anti-virus protection do to the likes of McAfee and Symantec? While users will probably be going, "It's about time," I can imagine a very different reaction at these companies.

I'm not shedding any tears, though.

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