Saturday, October 17, 2009

Beware of Microsoft!

It is well-known that using Microsoft products is risky because of many reasons. Just to refresh your memory, Microsoft Windows (of any flavour) is the most insecure operating system. Viruses, of course, are well-known, but most people do not realise that viruses are a problem only in MS Windows. A kind of malicious software called Trojans is, perhaps, more dangerous. It takes out information about what your computer contains. Then there is the risk of the computer suddenly refusing to respond, requiring a reboot, and possibly causing loss of data. There is nothing new in all these, though most people think that all computers are like this.

But here is another threat now. Apparently, Microsoft released a patch some time back that has made the browser Firefox risky to use. Of course, it made their own Internet Explorer also risky, but that has always had plenty of security holes, so one more was not a big thing. Firefox is considered to be more secure even on Windoze, but apparently Microsoft's patch has made it vulnerable to attacks. You don't have to take my word for it, you can read the story in Computer World. It says, "An add-on that Microsoft silently slipped into Mozilla's Firefox last February leaves the browser open to attack, Microsoft's security engineers acknowledged earlier this week." We should thank Microsoft for acknowedging the fact.

Apparently, the plug-in could be installed without the knowledge of the user. And once installed, it was not at all easy to remove it. The usual "Disable" button seen for each plug-in would itself be disabled. And one had to wade through the Windows Registry (which is a risky thing to do and not recommended for normal users to do) to remove the plug-in. It is unclear whether this happened unwittingly or whether it was a deliberate move on the part of Microsoft to put a brake on the steady increase in popularity that Firefox has been showing at the expense of Internet Explorer. I would have thought that the former could be true, though I wouldn't put the latter beyond Microsoft, but for one reason: that Microsoft has done things that many businessmen would never think of, and are possibly continuing to do such things too.

Let me tell you one such thing that they are probably doing. I was told that the Google desktop search tool is locked in Windows Vista. I have to admit that I have not tested this myself, since I really don't have a machine with Vista anywhere near me. It apparently requires the Windows key to be unlocked. Well, this could be a bug somewhere, but again, it could be deliberate too. MS certainly wouldn't want a Google software to become popular on their systems especially when they are in direct competition in the Net search area. Not that Bing is popular - certainly not anywhere near Google.

Another thing I was told is that Firefox runs slow on Windows. Well, as I said earlier, it could be accidental, or it could be deliberate. But with Microsoft, I would put my bet on the latter. As someone once told me, it is not that Microsoft engineers are fools. If they make it all very nice and perfect the first time itself, what will be the attraction in new versions? And where will be the antivirus business - something that Microsoft itself is planning to do?

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