Microsoft & National Security comment


Why Microsoft is a threat not only to consumers, but also to national security. This article was originally written a couple of years ago. But it just got worse:


Microsoft Wins Homeland Security Contract
Jul 15, 5:35 pm ET WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday it has awarded a five-year, $90 million enterprise agreement to Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) to become the department's primary technology provider. Under the contract, Microsoft will supply desktop and server software to the newly created department, which has merged parts of 22 different agencies into one entity. The agreement delivers licensing coverage for about 140,000 desktops and will help the department to establish a common computing environment, Homeland Security said in a statement.

and then a week later:

Experts anxious over possible Web attack
By Jeordan Legon and Marsha Walton (CNN) Thursday, July 31, 2003 Posted: 2131 GMT "We implore the private sector -- both business and home users -- to visit the Microsoft Web site and install the patches and mitigations necessary to prevent this from creating a negative effect on the Internet as a whole." FBI spokesman Bill Murray. CNN) -- Seeing a rise in hacker activity that could be a prelude to a broad Internet attack, security experts Thursday urged computer users to protect their machines by installing a free patch offered by Microsoft. The Homeland Security Department warned it has detected an increase in hackers scanning the Internet to find vulnerable computers. "That's a sure sign the intruder community is actively interested in finding out who they can exploit," said Jeffrey Havrilla, an Internet security analyst at the government's CERT Coordination Center, which monitors computer security. The vulnerability affects almost all computers running Microsoft's Windows operating system software. The flaw, involving so-called "buffer overflows," can fool software into accepting insecure commands that could let intruders steal data, delete files or eavesdrop on e-mails


Why are there so many viruses on Microsoft Windows as compared to Macintosh and Linux? It's because Windows holds a near monopoly on the market. If you want to sabotage computer users and networks, Windows is your natural choice. The "Code Red" worm/virus for example, only affects Microsoft systems (Windows/Outlook). As did the 'ILOVEYOU' virus. And Melissa. And more recently the SQL Slammer worm.

Attacking computer infrastructures is made a lot easier when there is a large homogeneous environment you need to be concerned about and not many small and very different environments.

For the very same reasons, if you want to protect computer infrastructures, the equally natural thing to do is make the networks (servers, operating systems and applications) much more varied and diverse.

The conclusion is simple, the dominance of Microsoft has become a threat to national security. A virus is many times more dangerous in the current environment where pretty much everything runs on some combination of Microsoft OS, applications and networks. According to The Radicati Group, there will be 302 million corporate e-mail mailboxes worldwide this year - 35% of which will be powered by Microsoft Exchange. Gartner estimated in 2002 that 40% of business e-mail systems worldwide were claimed by Microsoft Express and Outlook.

But a threat to the country is not as bad for Microsoft as a threat to its market share. A more diverse environment necessarily means a smaller piece for Microsoft. So Microsoft aggressively works to promote

The history bears out how Microsoft understands the need to own the users environment and data as much as possible. Any opportunity for another company to provide solutions for the user in competition to Microsoft is a threat to them. They have used their dominance to lock in users. If you cannot read and write Word documents you are not going to stay in business long. During the nineties the real problem with Microsoft was access to up-to date and complete specifications to their file formats like Word and Excel. It's hard to market a Word processor which cannot read and write Word documents.

The monopoly Microsoft enjoyed in the nineties was one of file formats. Other developers would not have access to the specifications of the popular file formats until they were updated yet again and even then critical parts would remain secret. Imagine if you could have nought any word processor and been able to rely on that nineties anti-Mac buzzword 'compatibility' with Microsoft Word. The market would not have withered and died but flourished.

Markets always flourish when there is a real opportunity for competition. AOL had to make their email Internet compatible. Microsoft tried their own mini-version of the Internet. Neither worked. Email and the Internet only works when everything is compatible with everything else - as far as sending messages are concerned. It would be a mess if email couldn't get everywhere, email would only work in specific areas. And this is how it was in the 70's and 80's.

The monopoly Microsoft is building today is more one of transmission. Today you can not check a Hotmail email account unless you use a Microsoft product as Hotmail does not support the industry standard POP3. Tomorrow there is Hailstorm and the expansion of Passport. What a place for a virus!

As for .Net; ".Net represents a threat to the ability of the Internet to be open" Ed Zander, president and COO Sun. IHT March 28 2002 p 11

To better protect our technological infrastructure, we need more competition which can only come through open standards. We need to make it easy for developers to create products and services which can enhance the users processes at any time and place in the cycle.

All formats and protocols where end user data is moved (file formats & transmission standards) need to be open and accessible to developers.

When the flow of information is free it will be easier for businesses to offer solutions which can improve any part of the process for companies - they will not have to be locked in to any one total solution/environment. This means that as the information flow is smoother and the consumer has more choice, the hacker has bigger problems because precisely the opposite is true for the hacker - any new application, system which easily accepts, processes and sends on information is going to do it in it's own way.

In, and up to the 80's 80% of research was funded my the military. Now, over 90% by business - RAND (TV Cyber War. BBC2 Fri 21 Feb '03) Are we happy giving that much responsibility to one company, Microsoft?


Microsoft gives IE for Mac the boot
The Register

AOL kills Netscape
The Register

Browser innovation is dead - Andreessen
The Register

Microsoft Prepares 'Office' Lock-In
/. September 2003

Experts: Reliance On Microsoft A Danger To National Security
CRN September 2003


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