OneCare 2.0 Sounds Like a Recipe for Zombies

July 12th, 2007  |  Published in etc

Since we’re in the “getting to know you” phase of the blog here, I’m going to go ahead and indulge in a little self-revelation: Windows scares the living hell out of me.

It’s my own thing to get over, because even I think it’s a partially irrational fear. Put me in front of a Windows machine and I start feeling hunted. I’ve got XP running on a virtual machine in Parallels Desktop. (More self-revelation: I’m a Mac weenie, but not of the “switched from Windows” variety, and certainly not of the ‘I blogged 3,000 words on the origin of Moof, definitively and publicly eviscerating a forum of misguided newbies who didn’t even hear about Macs until the SE, for God’s sake’ variety.) I’m sort of comfortable with it under Parallels because virtualization, in a way, is to operating systems like Plato’s cave allegory is to people. The operating system *thinks* it’s in control of a real computer, but it’s not. That limits the damage it can do and helps me feel like I’m in some kind of control … the same way we’re in control of bears at the zoo.

I’ve heard the horror stories about Windows and its security problems, and how if you bring an unpatched Windows box up on the ‘net Eastern European mafiosi will max your credit cards but leave you enough to buy a ticket to Nigeria to help that nice oil minister recover his lost fortune. And to the extent I am a big flailing Windows ninny, it might as well all be true. But to the extent I also have reading comprehension skills and have been using computers since before there even was a Windows, I’m also pretty clear on a key point about Microsoft’s security track record: It’s not good.

In fact, just this April I could be overheard complaining about Microsoft OneCare betas, which protected your data from being deleted by malware by going ahead and deleting it first. (More self revelation: I write a column at PracticallyNetworked.)

So my colleagues over at internetnews.com noted the advent of another OneCare beta, and even if I first skimmed the story to see if there was anything juicy about it preemptively selling your Social Security Number to meth traffickers, my attention sharpened when I read this:

Among the new features that Microsoft is baking into the new version of one care is Multi-PC and home network management. […] It includes support for up to three PC’s as part of the product cost. The new feature in version 2 will provide a single dashboard for managing the security of networked PCs and for resolving issues across the network, as well.

The current version of OneCare includes a backup feature which will be expanded in version 2 with a centralized backup feature that would allow a user to control and manage backups for all networked PC’s that are part of the same OneCare subscription.

I’ve read elsewhere that a OneCare “master” can push printer driver updates to its slaves, recommend security settings adjustments and trigger file transfers.

So … you’ve got this operating system from this company. It’s got security problems, and the company that makes it has security problems. On a network of equals, it’s not such a menace because its basic instinct is to keep to itself. But now you’re going to install software on it that lets it tell other computers on your network what to do. It can even send them things it purports to be printer drivers, or provide instructions to do things it purports to be safe.

You see that the software says “beta” on the label, and you know that the last time you saw “beta” on this particular software, it ate all your Outlook files while some Microsoft engineers used the company’s recent fixation with “speaking to customers in a human voice” to calmly explain it was all your fault and please download the next version to see if it deletes all your mail again, because it probably won’t this time but we’ll never know if you don’t try.

If you’re a busy householder, you’ll lose your temper when your kid asks for the tenth time “Dad, my computer told me I needed to click ‘OK’ to be safe … should I do it?” and you’ll finally tell him that even though you’ve always taught him to never let his computer do anything it seemed to suggest all by itself, it’s o.k. now because things are different … it’s safe now.

“Click ‘OK’ and be at peace, my child … OneCare 2.0 is in charge of our family’s well-being now. It will never hurt us.”

I eagerly await the arrival of our new OneCare 2.0-exploiting, family-network-enslaving zombie overlords.

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