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I read a classic piece of spin in The Business, Microsoft races to stop bank account hackers by Tony Glover. Tony who has been shortlisted in a category for Business Journalist of the Year wrote “Technicians at the US software giant Microsoft are working flat out to prevent a new security threat that this week could give criminals access to computer systems used worldwide by banks and governments.”
The general threat that Tony outlined called phishing has been covered for quite a while by national newspapers, something that wasn’t made clear in the article. In fact eBay, HBOS and Barclays customers have all been exposed to phishing attacks. The article was an excellent piece of PR work (my hat goes off to the members of the Microsoft press team) that failed to point out:
– Phishing has been going on for quite a while now, though the vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer is new. It is one of many security vulnerabilities in the product and phishing as a security risk is well understood
– Microsoft was trying to plug yet another security gap in their software that facilitates phishing? . Despite repeated promises to get tough security, Microsoft have failed to do so
– Using an alternative browser like Opera can help prevent the risk of phishing (though nothing in IT systems can be labeled foolproof)
– It is yet another good argument against software bundling like Microsoft (and increasingly Apple) have been doing and is an excellent riposte to critics of the EU competition commissions case against Microsoft. Bundling of software restricts the ability of competition to spur innovation and improvements in both quality and service
Free Internet calls move a step closer on page six goes on to talk breathlessly about a new feature in Microsoft Office that provides Internet calls. Its not that big a deal, I know of people who used Skype and before it Net2Phone and other over the net software phones. In fact Stephen Waddington, managing director of geeky PR firm Rainier was quoted in a newspaper case study talking about his firms uses of voice over the ‘net for international conference calls a few years ago.
In addition, many instant messenger programmes such as Yahoo! Instant Messenger, AIM and iChat offer audio and video calls between users. Another fallacy in technology circles is the concept of ‘free’, you’d think that technology marketers would be mature enough to realise that nothing ever comes for free, even ‘free’ pirated MP3s or DiVX movie files via a P2P network is partly financed by banner advertisements, spyware and adware in the P2P software itself. Freeware is often produced for altruistic reasons, even if it is to build a community of users or make ones mark with an elegant solution to a problem. In the case of ‘free internet calls’ it will help increase sales of broadband connections, where calls leave the domain of a connection between IP addresses over PCs some sort of ‘interconnection charge’ will be due. Its not new, its history repeating.