Windows-Sicherheitslücken weisen PC-User auf Alternativen hin

imageDie Sicherheitslücken in Windows, die durch immer neue Wellen von Computer-Viren und -Würmer offen gelegt werden, nerven die PC-User inzwischen so sehr, dass sich manche nach Alternativen umschauen. Während Privatanwender ohne größere Probleme auf einen Mac umsteigen können, tun sich aber kommerzielle IT-Manager mit einem Umstieg schwer. 

Für Unternehmen die bereits heftig in Softwaresysteme von Microsoft investiert haben, komme der Umstieg kaum in Frage. Die Kosten für den Umstieg auf den Mac “sind hoch und stellen für jeden IT-Chef eine potezielle Karriere-Gefahr dar”, zitiert Kolumnist Kevin Maney von der USA-Today den Analysten Peter Kastner von der Consulting-Firma Vericours. “Es hat noch niemand seinen Job verloren, wenn er bei Windows geblieben ist.”

Vielleicht muss Apple da noch etwas Überzeugungsarbeit leisten?

USA Today Posted 9/21/2004 9:00 PM     Updated 9/22/2004 2:35 AM


Kevin Maney

Mac or PC? Windows’ security issues help some users choose

Get a Mac!

There. I hope all you Apple crazies are happy now and WILL STOP E-MAILING ME!


Last week, I wrote about a virus giving a lobotomy to my Windows XP home computer. I got more e-mail about that column than any other, ever. The comments generally split into two camps:

* People who have Windows PCs and wanted to commiserate.

* Mac zealots who swarmed over my sad story like ants on a dropped Popsicle, all on a mission to “save” this allegedly misguided Microsoft captive. Now I know what it would feel like to wander into a Branch Davidian convention. Or to be a Democrat trapped in a room with Zell Miller.

Taken together, though, the two kinds of responses raise a point: This virus and security problem might be the biggest challenge to Microsoft in years.

The message I get is that people are fed up with the vulnerability of Windows. They are increasingly willing to consider other options. And, for whatever reasons, Apple Computer’s Macintosh and Linux-based computers hardly get infected or invaded at all.

My in-box is proof that hackers and virus writers know no bounds. They are filling Windows computers worldwide with pop-up ads and spyware, which can steal information from your hard drive. They’re sending out viruses that outright destroy PCs, often taking out valuable digital files with it.

It’s not like you have to be stupid or negligent to have this happen. Jeff Hawkins — the guy who invented the Palm computer and wrote a just-out book about the brain — e-mailed to say that a virus killed his home PC. I got a similar note from Felix Sanchez, CEO of government services company TerraCom. “My brand-new Sony went kaput,” he writes. “I hope our small office has not been further compromised.”

The viruses have hit doctors and lawyers and all kinds of regular folks. Jacqueline Beckley, owner of small business The Understanding & Insight Group, says the viruses are costing her big bucks, and, “They should just hang each of the people who do the virus.”

Computer security is even a problem at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Temple, Texas, writes Bernadette Hickman, whose title at the school is “Webmeister.” As you might imagine, she stops short of calling for hangings. But the school has been switching to Macs.

Which brings us back to the Mac crowd.

There’s a book coming out called The Cult of Mac. It is aptly titled. Loving a product is one thing, but these folks recruit non-believers like missionaries.

“There is a computing world where viruses and spyware are unheard of, and the promise of technology making life better is actually a realistic goal,” e-mails Michael Bino of New Jersey, using evangelical language that would make Oral Roberts proud. “Try a Mac.”

“I was in the same position until I saw the light,” writes Wilson Gill of Australia. “I am a very, very happy Mac user. Take the plunge, and I guarantee you will never look back.”

Am I missing something? Do the mushrooms come packaged right in the Mac box?

Cultishness aside, though, people are switching because of the security issue. In Austin, computer consultant Brad Hudelson was once a high-level manager at Dell, the leading maker of Windows PCs. Hudelson says he “gave up after Sasser (virus attacks) last year and replaced all my machines with Apples and Mac OS X.”

Physician Thomas Essman switched for the same reason. So did Bryan Crawford, a biology professor at the University of Alberta in Canada. “I’ve been in computer heaven ever since,” Crawford says.

Here’s a particularly good one: Daryl Forrest is a developer of software for Windows. “I have moved all non-work-related computing to a new Apple Power Mac G5,” he writes. “I like Windows XP, but the risks are too high these days. It’s sad that it has gotten to this.”

On and on it goes, one e-mail after another.

And the threats are only going to get worse. Monday, security software maker Symantec reported it found 5,000 new viruses aimed at Windows in the first half of 2004 — a dramatic increase over 2003.

Microsoft is not oblivious. “The environment has changed, clearly,” says Gytis Barzdukas, an executive in Microsoft’s security unit. “We are stepping up, trying to take more responsibility. We want to be partners with our customers in maintaining their PCs’ health.”

The company is frantically writing software patches to plug the Windows vulnerabilities. It is offering big-money bounties for the arrests of virus writers. It is trying to educate its users about computer safety — the equivalent, Barzdukas says, of telling car owners they should wear seat belts.

So far, Microsoft has had no luck staying ahead of the threats. The company plugs one hole or advises customers to take a certain measure, and the hackers find four ways around it. It’s the software equivalent of trying to get rid of cockroaches.

Industry analysts don’t think this is going to have a significant impact on buying decisions. Businesses, especially, are too heavily invested in Microsoft-based software. The costs to switch to the Mac “are huge and potentially career-threatening for most CIOs,” says Peter Kastner, analyst at consulting firm Vericours. “No one has lost their job for keeping Windows.”

Individuals, though, might be tempted for reasons that didn’t exist a couple of years ago. This time, Microsoft hasn’t done anything particularly wrong; the hackers are the bad guys.

Blaming Microsoft for not building in safety measures is a little like blaming Florida for being in the path of a hurricane.

Still, Microsoft should be worried. It apparently has a lot of frustrated users out there.

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