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Security: Microsoft Goes Postal. Er, Poster

© 2004 Lawrence I. Charters

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

A little over two years ago, in January 2002, Bill Gates announced a major security initiative for Microsoft. Stung by several massive security incidents in 2001, most notably the Code Red and Nimda worms that shut down entire networks and damaged millions of computers worldwide, the chairman of Microsoft announced that, henceforth, security was going to be Microsoft’s number one goal.

Since that time, Microsoft has hired lobbyists to tout the security of their product, assigned a staff of security experts to assist the Department of Homeland Security in doing – something; it isn’t clear exactly what – and issued a deluge of patches and updates to their software products to patch holes, attempt to patch holes, or to repatch security holes in those products. The results have been impressive: 2002 had far more and much larger security incidents than 2001, and 2003 eclipsed even 2002’s performance. Computer security, or more explicitly Microsoft’s computer insecurity, left the realm of network security experts and network managers and entered the realm of front-page stories in national news magazines and newspapers.

Things got so bad, in fact, that on August 19, 2003, Microsoft started buying full-page ads in major newspapers asking users to “Protect your PC.” Washington Apple Pi Journal thought this was a splendid idea, and even reproduced Microsoft’s ad, gratis, along with eight alternative ads that we thought might be more effective. (Journal, September/October 2003, pp. 80-83).

Microsoft also stepped up their marketing, stating that future versions of Windows (and, presumably, other Microsoft products) would be much more secure. Technology briefings for corporate and government clients, often with nice refreshments, hinted that the long-rumored Windows XP Service Pack 2 (still unreleased as of this writing) would not only install a new, presumably even functional software firewall on Windows XP, but also turn it on!

By January 2004, Microsoft could claim that they had spent “hundreds of millions of dollars” on computer security. Most of it, however, appeared to be spent on lobbyists, advisors, press conferences, newspapers and magazine advertisements, and refreshments for PowerPoint-driven briefings. There were few tangible products.

Microsoft Security Posters

Microsoft’s first tangible security product since announcing their costly “security first” campaign consists of this set of three color posters.

Until now. Microsoft has released three 10 x 14-inch posters, in color, that urge users to avoid viruses, worms and hackers. At one point Microsoft was making 75-poster kits (twenty-five of each design) available for free, mostly to education institutions, but quickly stopped that effort. You now have to download the posters, in Adobe Acrobat format, from Microsoft’s Web site:


The posters don’t actually make your PC more secure and, in fact, provide precious little information at all. For that you are directed to another location:

As an alternative, of course, you could try another approach: use a Mac. They may not be perfect, but they offer better protection than a poster.