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Trustworthy Computing - Fact or Fiction?

  LastChip 01:28 19 Sep 2004

click here for an article, that focuses on XP's SP2; the pro's and con's of Windows, MAC's and Linux; and the implications for Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Initiative.

It takes a while to read, but (I believe) offers a balanced view of where Microsoft is at, and whether they have (or have not) kept their eye on the ball.

Those who believe they now have a secure system (post SP2), may like to consider it's contents. To quote the author, you can "drive a Mack truck through" the firewall.

  Forum Editor 09:52 19 Sep 2004

Trustworthy computing is a concept so far-reaching and so complex that it just isn't possible to do it justice in a few words via a web forum. There are enormous - some might say insurmountable - obstacles to be overcome along the way, and one of the biggest is the most important of all - human nature.

ELECTRON99 has gone straight to the heart of this issue - the vast majority of ordinary computer users just aren't interested in the convoluted arguments and discussions that take place in forums like this one, or in the articles that are written by so-called technology gurus. Ordinary computer users, and by that I mean people who are not enthusiasts, but who use machines at home or at work as part of their everyday routine, couldn't really care less about Microsoft v Linux arguments, or whether WinXP's SP2 contains vulnerabilities - they want computers which start easily, are stable when running, and perform the basic tasks easily and rapidly. By 'basic tasks' I mean running Office suites, email clients, web browsers, and the sundry graphics and digital photo applications that most people use nowadays. It isn't rocket science - at least in computing terms it isn't, and these users can't be bothered with all the faffing and configuring much beloved of the 'hobbyist' user. I meet such people everyday of my working life - they're my clients, and they simply want their computers to run their applications and keep quiet - no error messages, no security alerts, and no fuss.

Trusted computing will, if it does what its champions (Microsoft) say it will do, make computing safer and more reliable, but it will also make life more complex, it's inevitable. Life teaches you that as one door closes another often opens, and with every so-called advance in computer security comes a downside - the legions of geeks and self-styled security experts who seek, and inevitably find, the tiniest chinks in the digital armour. I hope Trustworthy computing does make it into the daylight - the aims as laid out by Microsoft are admirable - but my experience tells me we're in for a rocky ride. I hope I'm still sane when we get to our destination.

  LastChip 13:02 19 Sep 2004

I believe it is.

It admits that the Linux desktop (at the moment) is more suitable for "power users"; it admits in so many words that MAC's have their own following, (particularly in the publishing world), and those users are unlikely to change; it admits that SP2 has come under intense scrutiny, but equally, opens it's eyes to issues that still have not been addressed by Microsoft.

For example, Microsoft has chosen to offer some support for AMD 64 machines, but like Linux or MAC's, they count for only a very small percentage of the overall user base. Yet such common issues such as a sound firewall,have still been left with gaping holes. OK, that can be resolved by using a third party firewall. BUT, taking the very valid point that most users just want to switch a machine on and let it work, the majority of people will be unaware of that, and with all the hype surrounding SP2, believe their machine to be bullet proof - not so!

It also takes a look at the massive issue of how far Microsoft should expect to go in protecting people from themselves. This is an almost unanswerable question as far as I can see, as it will mean different things to different people. My own view is the intervention should be minimal, as I've been brought up to believe you are responsible for your own actions, but a basically secure machine is not too much to ask; is it?

Inevitably, an article such as this will always be controversial, and there will be the Microsoft camp defending and others attacking, but the issues remain, whether you like it or not.

ps FE I'm sure you will have no trouble in remaining sane - even with me writing here!

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