Sunday, January 30, 2005

An "open letter" to Microsoft...

Once again, commenters everywhere are espousing opinions on Microsoft's latest statements regarding the company's plans to disallow updates for pirated copies of Windows (and other software).

We all know taking that position results in one primary problem: Unpatched computers get infected or overrun and then bombard computers of others - making victims of people with valid, paid-for copies of Windows.

I understand Microsoft's position, I disagree with it, and I have a solution.

Patch the pirated computers, "update" the pirated computer's firewall to control two-way traffic, then turn that firewall on. Turn it on all the way. Like as in "nothing-in, nothing-out." Stop all the network traffic on those machines. And put "PIRATED" in all four corners of the screen, like you do with Safe Mode. Heck, for that matter, only allow users to boot into safe mode if it's pirated.

Of course, you could leave open connections to, say, a Microsoft site where people could be allowed something like, oh maybe 30 days to register their software. Give 'em a reduced registration rate maybe. Or maybe not. That's up to you.

Seriously - A significant portion of my job is protecting my company from all those unpatched and out-of-date computers. My time is valuable, and so is the time of many others like me. The ball belongs in your court - Where thousands of people have to spend hours and hours defending networks, you can fix it for all of us in one fell-swoop.

Microsoft's failure to patch problem computers makes for a less-secure Internet. It makes for higher operating costs for my company. It means I am focusing my time on things I need not deal with. It means I'm not focused on more important things that deserve my individual time.

Revenues are important, sure, but so are your customers, and so is wide area network security. This is the one area where revenues might just need to take a back seat. Think about it. Do the right thing.

Drastic? Sure, but healthier than leaving security holes all over the planet.

By not helping your enemies, you hurt your friends. You can't win, but you can make sure the people who are already on your side are taken care of.

Patch that software. Then get 'em with the firewall. Do it. We need you.

And thanks for listening.

EDIT:

P.S. - Is this a little tongue in cheek? Sure it is, somewhat. The idea is to discuss all the options and possibilities, and I think people need to talk more about the option of making it harder for software thiefs, regardless of the PR impact. Talking about it and actually doing it are two very different things, and often useful ideas come out of the conversations about the "fringe" options.

Already several emails and opinions are coming in (keep 'em coming, and you can also use the comments link below), so let me point out a few things...

  • First, I don't think Microsoft is "evil" - and that was not my point. Not even close.
  • Second, I know automatic updates would still work for pirated software under the proposed plan. That's not my concern - apparently there are some idiots who steal software that just don't have the brains or desire to turn it on, for whatever reasons.
  • Third, I'm not freaking out over something that hasn't happened yet. Rather, I am thinking about and commenting on something that's being discussed and in which I have professional interest and experience. Part of my experience is that if you offer opinions before Microsoft takes action, you're more likely to have your opinion count for something, however small. Come to think of it, that's more about the way the world works in general than it is about Microsoft...
  • Fourth, my thoughts are more about Microsoft asserting itself from both the "security-custodian" and "software-seller" roles. Two statements (drastic ones, granted) in one brush stroke.

Mitch Wagner at Security Pipeline has his own opinions on the matter, too. See what other people are writing about the subject with Feedster.

Interesting conversation. What do you think?



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IT Security | Tech
Sunday, January 30, 2005 11:15:50 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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