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02/05/2005 Archived Entry: "No more Windows security patches?"
Microsoft has announced that this year, owners of bootleg copies of Windows will no longer be allowed to download patches and security fixes.
Now, Sir Bill is certainly within his rights to do this. But it gives the lie to his oft-stated (but little-evidenced) claim that Microsoft makes security its top priority. Clearly Microsoft is willing to see hordes of unpatched systems, running their badly-designed software, polluting the Internet with viruses and spam. Remember this the next time you hear their PR spin.
What does this mean for you, the everyday computer user?
1. If you're using Windows, and you're not up to date with security patches, download and install them now, and keep doing so regularly, as long as you can. Even legit owners of Windows can lose the update service if they have not properly registered, or have not enabled the privacy-breaching Automatic Update Service.
2. In the coming months you're going to see an even bigger flood of Internet worms and spam, as the crackers take advantage of the fact that newly-found vulnerabilities won't get patched. Remember, these guys are pros now, not amateurs -- they read the tech news, and understand the consequences as well as anyone.
3. As a result, you need to harden your system against intrusion as much as you possibly can. Make sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software is up to date. Ditto your firewall; better still, install a hardware firewall (they're getting down to the $30 price range). If you're running a business, consider taking critical systems off the 'net entirely -- and remember that viruses can spread through internal corporate networks, so sit down with a specialist and do some serious network security planning.
4. If you can, move away from Windows and onto Linux, Unix, or Mac. There is never an easier time to convert than right now; and this will give you a level of security that a dozen Windows bolt-ons can't equal. Moreover, you can see from this announcement how much consideration Microsoft has for the welfare of their customers or the security of the Internet. (None.) Is this a company you can trust? Is this behavior you wish to reward?
Buckle down, all. It's going to be a rough year.