Microsoft to Automate Windows Security
Microsoft Corp. plans to release a new version of its popular Windows XP software that automatically downloads and installs software patches onto personal computers, one of the company’s most aggressive moves to promote Internet safety.
Starting in mid-2004, Windows XP customers will be able to download a new “service pack” that includes the automatic installation function. The software also will include a stronger Internet firewall, new protections against computer viruses and software that blocks Internet pop-up advertising.
The upgrade is meant to make it easier for the millions of home computer users who surf the Internet but are not computer security experts.
Security is not something most computer users think about unless there is a computer worm or other high-profile threat going around, said Neil Charney, Microsoft’s director of Windows product management. With the upgrade, customers give their consent once and Microsoft will download and install patches for them, he added.
The software is one of the first fruits of the “secure computing” project that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates launched in January 2002 in response to charges that the software maker was sacrificing security in favor of user-friendly features that hackers could easily exploit.
It is also designed to get security patches installed on Microsoft computers before hackers can figure out how to take advantage of software holes. Microsoft regularly releases software fixes for security flaws but those same fixes can provide hackers with a blueprint for attack. Hackers usually figure out how to take advantage of a security hole within weeks after the patch is released — and that time period is shrinking.
One would think that this would also create an amazing new vulnerability? Still, Microsoft has to do something, I suppose. I’ve been autofed security updates several times over the past few days. Indeed, it’s getting nigh unto ridiculous. If it weren’t for a massive hard drive–not to mention a broadband connection– all these updates would really eat into system resources.
Switching to a Mac, the oft-suggested solution, only works to the extent not many people do it. Surely, it’s not so much that Macs are inherently safer but rather that there’s not much mischief in infecting half a dozen computers with a virus.