Why Microsoft should have made SP2 open to all

An excellent article from a very intellegent writer - see his website for more information.

"The security of your computer and your network depends on two things: what you do to secure your computer and network, and what everyone else does to secure their computers and networks. It's not enough for you to maintain a secure network. If everybody else doesn't maintain their security, we're all more vulnerable to attack. When there are lots of insecure computers connected to the Internet, worms spread faster and more extensively, distributed denial-of-service attacks are easier to launch, and spammers have more platforms from which to send e-mail. The more insecure the average computer on the Internet is, the more insecure your computer is.

It's like malaria: everyone is safer when we all work together to drain the swamps and increase the level of hygiene in our community. This is the backdrop from which to understand Microsoft's Windows XP security upgrade: Service Pack 2. SP2 is a major security upgrade. It includes features like Windows Firewall, an enhanced personal firewall that is turned on by default, and a better automatic patching feature. It includes a bunch of small security improvements. It makes Windows XP more secure.

In early May, stories were written saying that Microsoft would make this upgrade available to all XP users, both licensed and unlicensed. To me, this was a very smart move on Microsoft's part. Think about all the ways it benefits Microsoft. One, its licensed users are more secure. Two, its licensed users are happier. Three, worms that attack Microsoft products are less virulent, which means Microsoft doesn't look as bad in the press. Microsoft wins, Microsoft's customers win, the Internet wins. It's the kind of marketing move that businessmen write best-selling books about.

Sadly, the press was wrong. Soon after, Microsoft said the initial comments were wrong, and that SP2 would not run on pirated copies of XP. Those copies would not be upgradeable, and would remain insecure. Only legal copies of the software could be secured.

This is the wrong decision, for all the same reasons that the opposite decision was the correct one."

View: Article, by Schneier

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