3/20/04

Microsoft adding security applications

Remember when you needed a 3rd-party disk-defragmenter for ... for what? I forget. Oh, yes. To improve disk performance. (Now-a-days, who could tell?) And then Microsoft bundled "Disk Defragmenter" and stole all of Norton's business. Remember when Microsoft stole all of Symantec's business when they provided an antivirus program (back with Windows 3.1)? And there went ZoneAlarm's business (and Symantec's and McAfee's) with XP's Internet Connection Firewall! No, having those things on Windows did not make third-party products go away. Neither will the proposed duplication of 3rd party security applications in LONGHORN (their next OS due out in 2006).

In the "Security Wire Perspectives" (an e-mail newsletter of Information Security magazine) in my mailbox today, Edmund X. DeJesus discusses this news. (See here.) He writes, "These built-in features will make it tough for administrators to decide whether to buy the extra software or simply rely on Windows alone."

I don't think so. Not for security applications. Microsoft is not lean and fast enough to address requirements of enterprise users. Home users will probably be just fine using Microsoft software. For example, even though I run XP on my desktop, I rely on a SoHo firewall and ZoneAlarm on my system. Why? As Internet Connection Firewall's help file says:
You should not enable Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) on any connection that does not directly connect to the Internet. If the firewall is enabled on the network adapter of an ICS client computer, it will interfere with some communications between that computer and all other computers on the network. For a similar reason, the Network Setup Wizard does not allow ICF to be enabled on the ICS host private connection, the connection that connects the ICS host computer with the ICS client computers, because enabling a firewall in this location would completely prohibit network communications.
Yes, well, ZoneAlarm —even the free version&mdashallows me to tune the configuration so that I can control what I share on the home (trusted) net, while still protecting to and from the Internet. And even though for years (since 3.1 or before) Windows has come with a back-up and restore program, I use a 3rd party product for reasons stated in Save your sanity -- Backup that PC!

Some of the features sound excellent... for the home user. I am not sure that enterprise users will want to trust Microsoft to do "dynamic system protection." For home users, it might be a terrific addition. But, Microsoft will not be able to keep up with the demands of corporate users.

XP supports ZIP files, but I still prefer WinZip (it allows one to specify the name of the resulting file -- built-in zip does not). Fax support from Microsoft? I use WinFax. Windows has MediaPlayer. RealPlayer is still around. IE does great stuff. You all use IE and Netscape and Opera and Mozilla/Firefox. The only area I can think of in which Microsoft killed off 3rd party applications is in TCP/IP integration.

So, should desktop security vendors be worried? Only if their primary business is retail.

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