Posted by: reformedmusings | November 22, 2008

Windows insecurity dragging down our national defense

When the insecurity of your operating system drives your overall productivity and daily user experience, plus threatens your national security, isn’t it time for a change? ZDNet is reporting that the Army has banned USB memory devices from use in its computers to combat the spread of a malware infection. Yahoo says that the entire Pentagon has implemented this same ban. The Defense Department reports that it is taking these measures to defend its networks against a specific virus. The Pentagon spokesman said:

Public alerts on this global virus threat urge all computer users to take precautions. Users should have current anti-viral software programs and anti-spyware installed in their computers, and information technology specialists should ensure that no infected hardware can breach DoD systems, Whitman said. [my emphasis]

All computer users? He really meant all Windows users, but that’s how narrowly they think – Windows is the computer. That’s absurd, of course.

Windows insecurity played an important role in my decision to move to Kubuntu Linux. Under Windows, I was running three parallel adware filters (SpywareBlaster, SpywareGuard, and Defender), a virus checker (Avast! Home Edition), and two registry protectors (SpyBot Search & Destroy and Defender). That doesn’t count the weekly defragging, registry maintenance (CCleaner), adware scans (Spybot and Lavasoft AdAware) and virus scans (Avast!). And people say that Windows just works? It’s a sieve crying out for tape to cover the myriad of holes. That’s why there’s an ever-expanding industry dedicated to rescuing hapless Windows users. In contrast, Linux maintenance consists of periodic automatic disk scanning on boot-up. That’s it.

I’m not alone in this assessment, not by far. Christopher Dawson doesn’t want to use Windows anymore. Windows’ insecurity weighs heavily on his mind. His wife is even happy with the change to Ubuntu Linux. Linux has a long history of tight security in server applications. Something like 70% of servers on the Internet run Linux. While no operating system is perfect, Linux has an excellent security record on the front lines.

Thinking of running to take a bite of the Apple? Think again. OS X has the illusion of security because it has rarely been targeted until recently. The gaping holes in the iPhone and iTunes open a small window on the potential holes in the largely untested OS X.

There are proponents in the US government that push for open source solutions, but they have a hard time getting past the self-proclaimed experts. The “experts” have invested huge bucks in Microsoft certifications that made them marketable. Any change away from Microsoft renders that expensive investment moot. So nothing changes the trend that has the self-proclamed experts being indispensible and life getting even more miserable for their hapless users. Flash drives are the life blood of increased productivity by taking briefings and background papers to meetings or work home to finish. Yet the “experts” are willing to sacrifice that productivity, plus our national security, to the god of Microsoft.

One day, maybe the “experts” will wake up. Trouble is, that wouldn’t be in their best economic interest. Nor would it be in the interest of decision makers, who would have to admit that they erred in selling their souls to the idol of Redmond. Been there, seen it myself.



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