Microsoft, from Bill Gates down, has lately been taking a stance on security as follows:
Yes, we have made mistakes, but you know, if our users would just keep their machines updated and take some responsibility and not be idiots, everything would be fine.
In some sense, that could be true- if you were selling Windows to a group of computer professionals with fast network connections and a seasoned understanding of computer security. The truth of the matter is that since Windows 95 Microsoft has not been in the business of selling Windows to computers as a somewhat technical one-size-fits-all-if-you-know-what-you’re-doing operating system, but rather an easy to use, user friendly appliance that will get you on the net, play your music, show you videos and play your games, all with the click of that magical start button. Let’s get something clear here- a lot of users don’t understand the concept multiple users in windows, let alone the fact that there is a user called Administrator that they can’t get to but also happens to have a blank password by default. And that is just one tiny piece of the modern windows OS. Windows is definitely dumbed down compared to, say, Linux; it is not in any way an easy to use operating system for people who do not have a thorough understanding of what it is they are using. Every day we have to clear virii and spyware off of people’s computers because they just click yes whenever something pops up on their computer. Every day we have to help people recover files because they don’t know or understand where the files are on their computer- they thought they were on the desktop. How many people do you know have computers that just slowly stopped working, or who couldn’t get their MSN to work, or happened to have a Windows Smartphone that simply did not work in any way as advertised (okay, that is my own personal beef, thanks to those who happen to run my place of work).
Once you step passed that Start Menu, there is very little that is intuitive or easy to use about windows. People don’t understand that it is actually microsoft telling them they have new updates to install- a lot of people think its just another spyware thingy. Most people in the US still don’t even have the bandwidth to download the patches even if they are automatically installed. And this is to say nothing of those unfortunate broadband users who have NT based devices on unfirewalled, unroutered lines- just waiting for someone to access their C$ drive with the Administrator username and blank password- and that is how the product ships! Dawn’s Mom actually knew about the XP Firewall on her system, she just had no idea that it wasn’t on or how to turn it on. “Why would they do that?” she asked. Why indeed? To simplify the user experience of course. Because users don’t know how to use it anyway, right? Then it should have shipped in a less complex form. Of course, if you go to the network connections on a DSL user’s computer, there are a number of available network connections, so which one would they think to even turn the firewall on, had they even known how to turn it on.
The Mac OS has its flaws, but in many ways it is implemented in an elegant, easy to use way. Sure there’s a lot hidden underneath, but I really believe the average user has less a need to get to that stuff than does the Windows user. At least the unix stuff in osx is hard to get to. In windows, the system files are simply hidden from view but can be shown by the click of a single button. And you get to that button by clicking on icons that are clearly visible in ‘My Computer’. “There was a bunch of stuff on my C drive I didn’t need, like boot.ini. Yes, I know it is hidden by default.
I could go on, but I shall refrain. Conclusion? As long as Microsoft sells essentially a single operating system to every single customer it has, without regards to their actual needs and with the mindset that a lot of security will not be dealt with until human error is wiped out- as opposed to conceding that the need to reduce the possibility of human error will ultimately have a longer lasting effect for users who were told that the appliance they just bought does actually ‘just work‘, Windows will continue to be the shitstorm that it is.