10/23/04

Scary words

I just got this week's issue of "Web Informant" (http://strom.com/awards/347.html) from David Strom. Its title is "Coming to an office near you," which reports on the Microsoft Office System 2003 launch show.

I read the whole column with interest, and found that certain phrases jumped out at me:
came on over a dozen CDs ... many of the bravest souls using this software actually put it into production ... the sheer complexity surrounding the number of different versions of Office a ... Microsoft is extending the notion of what desktop software is, and with Office 2003 we have applications that can reach out across the Internet for online help, for data via Web services, for document repositories and collaboration via SharePoint, for project management and scheduling information via Project Server, for workflow information via BizTalk, and for automatically filling out forms via InfoPath. Office 2003 is a huge collection of stuff ...
Cool. New, exciting features. Things that every one of our users will want. Seamlessly -- it doesn't say that, but what else is there with Microsoft? -- connecting your desktop to all sorts of network.

Yes, I exaggerate. But, in the security/feature wars, Microsoft is on the side of our users, not on the side of security. Newer, bigger, better. How well has it been tested? As I've mentioned in a blog (here) before, I use Windows software too. But I also got an e-mail from Microsoft today, starting off, "Included in this advisory are updates for five recently discovered vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows." So, perhaps I am in a less than hopeful mood.

Lax Security Will Catch Up With You

Sometimes we can get away with lax computer security for a time. Some might call it luck (or dumb luck), others call it divine favor (Matthew 5:44, 45; Luke 6:35, 36). Eventually, there is judgement day. Let me illustrate by pointing to a recent traffic catastrophe in my home state.

On October 18 in the late afternoon, "Dozens of vehicles crashed Saturday in separate accidents on Interstate 95 as a storm blew through a Baltimore suburb, injuring at least 49 people and forcing authorities to shut down the highway." (See a news story at here (or search for "49 Hurt As Storm Triggers Md. Accidents"). Two people involved commented, that "the road wasn't slippery but the glare was unusually strong from sleet on the road, even while wearing sunglasses," and "Everybody stopped because of the glare and the sleet."

You see, on the highways in Maryland, traffic typically moves at the posted speed limit or above. In addition, the cars and trucks -- moving at 60 to 75 MPH do not maintain what the driving books all call "a safe stopping distance." When I drive the highways during morning rush hour the speeds average 10 MPH over the limit (for example, 65 on US 29, which has a 55 MPH limit) with a car length or less between vehicles. And that works just fine ... usually. But when one or more drivers have to lay on the brakes, this starts a chain reaction. Still, sometimes we get away with it. Other times we get what is depicted in the WBAL-TV11 photo, below.

What is your network going to look like?

Photo of pile-up on I95