An interesting way for Microsoft to start of the new year indeed. The application is called Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware, currently a beta version. The download page touts the new program as:
[Windows AntiSpyware (Beta) is] a security technology that helps protect Windows users from spyware and other potentially unwanted software. Known spyware on your PC can be detected and removed. This helps reduce negative effects caused by spyware including slow PC performance, annoying pop-up ads, unwanted changes to Internet settings, and unauthorized use of your private information. Continuous protection improves Internet browsing safety by guarding over 50 ways spyware can enter your PC.
This news was obviously an eye-opener when I first saw the news on Slashdot. I am highly curious about this move by Microsoft. In particular:
- Is Microsoft’s business going reactive? First, they finally decided to incorporate a (more visible) firewall in the operating system, which is not a novel concept (Linux and Mac OS X were already ahead of the game). I say that the firewall in SP2 is “more visible” because there actually was a way to enable a “firewall” in the original XP, though not really publicized to the general public. Now, a spyware removal program, which again, is not a novel concept. What’s next, Microsoft’s own anti-virus program?
- How good is this new spyware program compared to Ad-Aware, Spybot, etc., which already exist, are popular, and are reasonably effective? Will this put companies such as Lavasoft (publisher of Ad-Aware) out of business?
The most important question I have is:
- What does this say about Microsoft? The message that I am getting from this message is that: “Hey, Microsoft Windows is a highly vulnerable operating system, and spyware and viruses can easily propagate through it.” My point is, if an operating system is reasonably secure and designed correctly, then such spyware application and a plethora of third-party security utilities are not necessary. Even worse, Microsoft admits that their new spyware removal program is buggy. A buggy software on top of buggy software is not a good thing.
My skepticism on Microsoft’s move may sound a bit harsh. The good thing about this is that Microsoft is making the initiative to do something about the spyware problem. Most importantly, “not a lot of people understand what spyware is or how to contain it, that should change when a computer giant such as Microsoft brings it to the attention of the masses” (thanks St. Clown).