February 17, 2019

Rant Mode Equals One: Just Say No, Bill - page 2

Just What Part of "Guilty" Don't You Understand, Bill?

  • May 8, 2000
  • By Paul Ferris

No, Bill, you and your company are guilty as all sin. The break-up may not be the best remedy. It's not intended to make us all more secure. It's not intended to make your company healthier. If it causes your product to be even less secure--doubtful, by the way--then so be it.

Maybe people will switch to some other operating systems (note the s on the end of that word). Maybe nine-tenths of the households in America will not be running operating systems with the exact same immune system. By way of comparison, if we as a human race had matching immune systems in our bodies we'd all be dead right now--one cold would have wiped us all out a long time ago. (In agriculture, it's called monoculture.)

In other words, with a little competition in the equation, we'll all be more secure. Without a doubt, we won't have to depend upon a company as incompetent as Microsoft in the security arena. We as a nation will have choice--the ability to choose things like more security instead of ease of use, for example.

That's an alternate reality that Microsoft may not like, but it's the best one for all of us if you're telling us that you cannot make more secure products without having immoral collusion between your operating system division and your applications developers.

No, maybe some other company that can provide truly secure mail clients will then have an opportunity to step up to the plate and show you how security is really done. Maybe then there will be security, if you cannot provide what we in the Linux community can.

What part of your guilt will you not acknowledge? Your company has provided the mail clients with these features despite the warnings. You talk of a "continually evolving operating system." You want to explain how that pertains to Windows? The only continuous evolution I can find in the daily operation of Windows seems to revolve around performance degradations due to corrupted and extended registry entries and multiple redundant .DLL files.

If it's so continually evolved, why hasn't the choice for consumers increased over the years? Why do my Windows-using friends have to run garbage on their computers? Where's the evolution in warmed-over Windows 95 products?

No, the real "continually evolving" products are Open Source / Free Software ones--you know it and it scares you. If you're going to defend your company in public, if you want to head off some of the damage done by ILOVEYOU and Melissa style virii, why don't you do the right thing and admit the problems and fix them? It's too late to dodge the ball, in other words; it's sitting in your lap and you have a black eye to boot.

In the meantime, you've made this insecure bed, despite numerous warnings to the contrary--time to shape up and do the right thing. Don't just patch against ILOVEYOU--patch against further ILOVEYOU style virii. Publish the source code for Outlook and Windows. Make auto-execution of things like Word documents and Visual basic programs impossible without the user first at least saving the document to disk.

Make it more painful, in other words. True, this may leave room for a competitor to make their mail client auto-open the document. True, it might make your users question the ease-of-use of your product. But in the meantime, things like Melissa and ILOVEYOU won't trash the mail systems of the world.

Maybe then your guilty conscience will be eased a bit.

Just a bit, I hope, but it's a step in the right direction.

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