Sometime in the next quarter, Microsoft will release the latest service pack for Microsoft XP. If you've been dutifully following Microsoft's directives, SP2 may be delivered "automatically" to your PC and to the XP desktops of your users. Microsoft designed this wonderful service to make its support more responsive by providing automatic fixes to bugs and security threats. There's only one flaw with this delivery mechanism: XP SP2 is not a service pack.
SP2 is really an operating system version upgrade, akin to a major OS code release. Moreover, according to some analysts, SP2 isn't just rolling out a panacea of fixes. SP2 may actually cause a flood of support calls. Why?
Analysts are warning that, after installing XP SP2, some applications may no longer function properly or as expected.
What are those applications?
Well, according to Microsoft, it depends. Windows XP SP2 makes substantial changes to the operating system's network protection, memory protection, email security, and browsing security. Any application that relies upon these services could experience potential problems in the desktop's configuration. Solving those configuration issues will take some expertise.
How much expertise? It depends.
Security Threats to Microsoft Products Are Still a Plague
Meanwhile, Microsoft is positioning itself in response to the latest Trojan horse attack called JS.Scob.Trojan (also known as Scob, JS.Toofeer, and Download.Ject). At this writing, Microsoft says its teams are still investigating the intelligent Trojan, which delivers its deadly payload through infected Microsoft Internet Information Servers (IIS).
This is the second hole in its security, a long-standing security hole in the IE browser. Microsoft has known about this hole for two years but has not yet fixed it.
These security infractions are only with Microsoft's IIS and IE browser. The Trojans do not affect other brands of Web servers, PC operating systems, or Web browsers.
Ssh! There's a Robbery Going Down!
Meanwhile, many reports from a number of Internet security firms have indicated that some very popular Web sites were infected with JS.Scob.Trojan on June 25. Who are they? No one will say. The names of these Web sites have been withheld, for fear that this news will do damage to those companies' business.
This, in turn, means that a very large number of PCs have been unwittingly infected, and their users still don't know. Moreover, these PC users have no immediate means of determining if their private keystrokes are already in the hands of someone in Russia. Some analysts estimate that the number of PCs that have been broken into may be in the hundreds of thousands.
What? Me worry?
Break Your Internet Explorer, Please!
Coming Soon! Microsoft's Panacea!
Of course, in typical Microsoft double-speak, the company says that all of this will be fixed soon...in the Windows XP SP2 service pack. According to Microsoft, XP SP2 will solve the security holes in IIS and fix the problem with IE.
Which brings us back to the beginning again, because as we noted earlier, analysts are predicting that XP SP2 has its own serious problems that will cause a tremendous amount of confusion for administrators as they try to make their old applications function to match the new operating system upgrade.
How Much Abuse Can Users Take?
All of this leads one to ask a couple of very simple questions: When will Microsoft implode? How much will its customers allow themselves to suffer? When will Microsoft acknowledge--and take responsibility for--the fact that the products they are delivering allow the theft of personal information property?
Eventually, companies that have standardized around Microsoft solutions will reach the conclusion that Microsoft products are still too insecure and that its remedies are too costly. And the trend has already begun. Individual home users are beginning to download the Mozilla and Opera browsers in record numbers. (Mozilla is a free, open-source browser that has been completely rebuilt from the original Netscape browser code.) Corporations are also beginning to embrace the Linux PC operating system and open-source Web servers.
So how long before Microsoft implodes? If the distribution of XP SP2 turns into a fiasco for corporate IT managers, perhaps it will be sooner than anyone ever expected.
Thomas M. Stockwell is Editor in Chief of MC Press Online, LP.