Thinking Tech

Why Microsoft must give away security software

Posting in Government

Staying safe online is no longer as simple as loading an anti-viral at start-up. In addition to malware dressed for special occasions, crooks put malware into useful utilities like those automating Twitter feeds. The Windows Registry has also been horribly abused, creating a mini-industry of registry clean-up tools.

Users who are scrupulous about using anti-viral software can still watch their PCs crash and burn as "malware" and viruses become one and the same.

That's why Microsoft has begun a beta-test of Microsoft Security Essentials, which will combine anti-virus and anti-malware functions, possibly putting some good tool makers out of business.

Staying safe online is no longer as simple as loading an anti-viral at start-up. In addition to malware dressed for special occasions, crooks put malware into useful utilities like those automating Twitter feeds. The Windows Registry has also been horribly abused, creating a mini-industry of registry clean-up tools.

Ralph Kirkland, whom I depend on to take care of my own PC, said while clearing out my latest malware attack that it's also important to keep all your software up to date, not just your security software, because hackers are constantly finding holes and developers are constantly patching them.

Why can't we get a permanent fix?

It's part of the binary nature of computing. Perfect Internet security would also give governments total cyber power over their citizens. If there were no way around the software security countries like Iran and China could put a complete lid on the cyber activities of their people.

A technology like IPv6 , under which every phone, router, and PC could have its own Internet address, might let us audit the origin of malware more effectively, but it's just as likely those trying to evade the cyber cops would quickly find ways to get around it, delivering a different IP number on every session.

And if you're running a Mac or Linux, don't think you lack a dog in this fight. It's the obscurity of those operating systems, not their built-in security, that seems to make them immune. If everyone were a Mac-head, in other words, you'd be as busy fighting these battles as the rest of us.

How do you keep yourself cyber safe?

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure