September 28th, 2006  |  Published in etc

Symantec says Vista will “reduce consumer choice”:

Paden’s beef is with the new Windows Security Center, an update to the control panel that made its first appearance with Windows XP’s Service Pack 2. He claims that the interface comes with default programs to handle virus protection, a software firewall, and a spyware scanner, and that the user can install replacements for these applications but not access them through the security center program.

At least as of Windows Vista RC1, some of his claims are true, but not all of them. A clean install of Vista does come with a firewall (based on an enhanced version of the Windows XP SP2 firewall) and anti-spyware courtesy of Windows Defender, but does not come with any anti-virus software (the Security Center complains about this via an orange shield with an exclamation point in the taskbar notification area, and urges the user to install a third-party AV program). The default Windows Vista “Welcome Center” contains an icon to subscribe to Microsoft’s Windows Live OneCare, which includes AV support, but the icon is not visible from the Security Center. As far as the firewall and anti-spyware applications go, the Security Center doesn’t appear to have any easily-accessible way to swap out these programs for third-party equivalents. Indeed, the firewall panel even warns that “Two or more firewalls running at the same time can conflict with each other.”

Paden believes that the presence of this control panel will confuse people who want to install third-party security products. “It would be like trying to drive a car with two dashboards. This is going to cause a great deal of consumer confusion,” Paden said in a statement.

Read that last as “we’re gonna hook less n00bs.”

They’re not going to lose many customers who know what they’re doing anyhow. They’re just going to lose first crack at newbies who get wind of the Horrors of the Internets and compliantly click on the first solution that presents itself.

The thing is, we’ve all been damning Microsoft for not taking a hand to the security of its products for all these years, so I’m not going to complain about that happening now. People have been building pointy-clicky basic firewalls on Linux for seven or eight years now. A basic firewall should be part of any system that presumes to present itself on the ‘net. If anything, and considering how much a part of the Windows experience viruses are, it’s criminal that there’s not a default basic antivirus program, too.

If we’re losing “consumer choice” in the name of systems that come up from a basic install in a more secure posture, I’d suggest Symantec et al forego the lucrative and easy pickings of the newbie terror market and go after organizations where they can sell licenses to knowledgeable IT staff who’ll see the difference between their product and “whatever comes on Windows.”

Or, you know, find a new business model that doesn’t involve banking on failure.

Everyone with an ounce of foresight knew that some day Microsoft would have to clean up its own house. These companies were happy to profit from Microsoft’s dominance, and the worst of them have created products that deliberately confuse and frighten inexperienced users with willfully obscured boundaries between random informational popups and actual threat warnings just to remind people that the software is operating. It was a business model for hyenas and vultures to begin with. Now that their short-sightedness is catching up to them, it’s hard to feel much pity.

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