Editor’s note: Russ McGuire is the online director of Business Reform Magazine. Each issue of Business Reform features practical advice on operating successfully in business while glorifying God.
This past week, everyday when I opened my Wall Street Journal, I was met with a full page ad from Microsoft. This ad was dominated by three simple words “Protect your PC.” This strikes me as something akin to the Saudi government running ads in the New York Times in mid-September of 2001 saying “Protect your Tall Buildings.” First, the message comes a little late. Second, we wouldn’t have to protect our PCs if Microsoft hadn’t provided criminals with all the elements they need to terrorize us Internet citizens.
Yes, I did say terrorize, and I mean it. I got a call last week from a friend who recently bought her family their first computer. She said “my printer won’t work.” Usually, I’d be the last one someone would call to fix a real computer problem, and usually I’d find the quickest way to escape such a question, but this friend is like a sister to our family, and she is definitely at the very beginning of the PC learning curve. So, I asked “what message is it giving you?” “Just a minute, I need to wait for the computer to reboot. Why does it keep rebooting?” Uh oh. Like a doctor telling a patient she has cancer, I had to break the news to this sister that her computer had a virus (or more precisely, a worm). I heard her catch her breath and, after a long silent moment, “what do I do?”
Since her computer kept rebooting (every 57 seconds), she couldn’t dialup to MSN and download the Microsoft patch or any of the antivirus software to clean the worm off her machine. Over the next several days I watched, and when possible helped, as she and her family struggled to bring their baby back to life. Providing instructions over the phone made clear how ridiculous it is for Microsoft to think that the PC has become plug and play for the average American consumer. Listen in: “Click on the Start button, then select Run. Type in SERVICES.MSC /S.” “What’s a dot?” “Sorry, SERVICES period MSC /S.” “What’s a slash?” “It’s a diagonal line, it should be on the question mark key.” “Ok, got it. Now what?” “In the window that opens, you should see a long list of stuff. Scroll down until you find Remote Procedure Call Service.” “Ok. There are two.” “Use the first one. The second one is really something different.” “Ok. Got it.” “Do a right mouse click on it.” “A what mouse who?”
Anyway, you get the idea.
The good news, I think she finally was able to get her computer back. But the last thing I heard from her was “I’m never opening another e-mail.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this virus didn’t even come through e-mail.
You see, the MSBlaster virus was built using one of many new “features” built into the latest versions of Microsoft Windows. Microsoft has computer manufacturers ship home PCs with the Remote Procedure Call feature activated. Chances are 99% of consumers will never use any application that needs this feature. But the terrorist who brought down businesses, government agencies, and who knows how many home PCs found a way to use it.
Have you been getting a bunch of pop-up windows on your PCs? Only one of my PCs runs Windows XP, and that one normally sits behind a firewall. But recently I took it on a road trip and was dialing in for my e-mail and web access. Suddenly, I started getting bombarded with these pop-up windows – even when I wasn’t running my web browser. Most of the pop-ups warned me that I was open to these pop-up attacks and should buy someone’s product or service to block them.
A little research shed light on the subject. Guess what – this is another wonderful new Microsoft feature. It’s called Messenger (not to be confused with Internet Messenger or any instant messaging products). Supposedly, it’s intended to allow a network adminstrator to notify all of the users on a local network about a problem. Probably a great feature for a corporate environment. But guess what – Microsoft has PC manufacturers ship all home PCs with this feature turned on too.
Thankfully, there’s a way to turn off Messenger as well. At least if you are an ambidextrous mouse contortionist.
I haven’t even gotten to talk about the SoBig virus that feeds off of the address book “feature” built into Microsoft’s Outlook software or the spam engines that validate e-mail addresses by relying on the preview “feature” built into Outlook. But time and space are running short, so I’ll get to the point.
Bottom line, thanks to the powerful tools (or should I say weapons) that Microsoft has built into their products, criminals now dominate the Internet. Common citizens don’t feel safe anymore. They fear that their thousand dollar computer investment will be destroyed by these criminals, and due to the increasing unusability of the Internet, in many respects they already have been. I hate to say it, but maybe these terrorists have won.
In their full page ad, Microsoft provides three “simple” steps to protect your PC. I’d like to propose a different solution – a single step solution:
Either buy a Mac, or switch to Linux.
Russ McGuire is Online Director for Business Reform. Prior to joining Business
Reform, Mr. McGuire spent over twenty years in technology industries, performing various roles from writing mission critical software for the nuclear power and defense industries to developing core business strategies in the telecom industry. Mr. McGuire is currently focused on helping businesspeople apply God’s eternal truths to their real-world business challenges through Business Reform’s online services. He can be reached at [email protected].