IT Weekly Middle East Newsletter 22nd May 2005

A builder builds your house: the windows don’t close properly, the doors can’t be securely locked, within a week, your home has been burgled, your most precious possessions taken. You need to hire somebody to help you protect your property — and fast. “I know” you think to yourself, “let’s hire that builder again”. Or perhaps that isn’t what springs to mind...

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By  Peter Branton Published  May 22, 2005

As safe as houses?|~||~||~|A builder builds your house: the windows don’t close properly, the doors can’t be securely locked, within a week, your home has been burgled, your most precious possessions taken. You need to hire somebody to help you protect your property — and fast. “I know” you think to yourself, “let’s hire that builder again”. Or perhaps that isn’t what springs to mind... Of course, nobody would imply that this is precisely the scenario that Microsoft’s much-vaunted OneCare subscription service amounts to. Oh no. Its entirely different, because Microsoft is providing a valuable service that will protect users from a wide range of threats. The oft-repeated claim that said users are only in danger from those threats because of flaws in their Microsoft software is of course completely false, and it would be scurrilous to repeat such a claim. Of course. OK, it is actually a bit unfair to keep bashing Redmond’s finest on security issues. In the last few years the company has probably spent more than any other vendor, including the security firms, on making software safer. However, it is going to be interesting to see what impact OneCare has. OneCare was launched with great fanfare by Microsoft this month as a complete “PC health solution” covering all sorts of ailments, not just security. It contains a range of useful tools for such functions as backup and restore capabilities, maintenance tasks and all sorts of other very useful stuff that quite frankly most PC owners will be grateful to have made easier. While it should be noted that OneCare is not just about security, it is the security bits that are likely to have the most impact though. For OneCare is also going to make it that bit easier for PC owners to get hold of antivirus and antispyware products. For proof, let’s here it from the company concerned: “Windows OneCare is the next major advance in our ongoing efforts to help keep consumers’ Windows-based PCs ‘healthy’ in a way that’s simple and as worry-free as possible,” was how one Ryan Hamlin, Microsoft’s general manager for its Technology Care and Safety Group (Didn’t know Microsoft had a Technology Care and Safety Group? You do now) put it. “We’re designing the service so it will continually update and evolve over time, helping to ensure that our customers will have the most complete and effective protection and safety devices in place every time they turn on their PC.” Sounds great? Well, actually it does sound pretty good, who wouldn’t want to have the most complete and effective protection and safety devices in place every time they turn on their PC? But supposing you were, say, a large security software firm, which makes pretty much all of its revenue from providing protection to those ‘Windows-based PCs”? Would it sound so good then? Trend Micro’s president of European operations, one Raimund Genes, would probably disagree. He was recently quoted as saying that Microsoft had gone back on promises to not compete with the antivirus industry. “Microsoft pitched Service Pack 2 as its security offering at an IDC conference in the middle of last year and promised that it would not compete with the antivirus industry,” he said. “One week later… Steve Ballmer said that he believed there was a business opportunity for security for Microsoft.” So Microsoft is going to find itself with some unhappy former partners. Does this matter to the rest of us, if we’re getting all the benefits of OneCare? The answer, unfortunately, is going to be a bit tougher than a simple yes/no solution. The drawback is that Microsoft and those said partners have been sharing information on security matters to help provide better defences against viruses and the like. If Microsoft is going it alone, it may find other companies less willing to help.||**||

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