The newspage

23/04/2010 20:31:58 UTC+02:00

Protecting an operating system

  • Broken Windows

McAfee's latest update (on Wednesday, April 21) marked the Windows system file svchost.exe as unsafe, and moved it to the quarantaine folder. Because of this unfortunate error, a lot of computers were suffering from BSOD's or constant restarting of the system.

The antivirus company apologised, and stated that this was due to a change in the testing procedure. But it now seems that the latest update wasn't even tested on Windows XP with service pack 3, according to ZDNet. This is really shocking news, as one of the biggest antivirus companies can't afford to make such a mistake. All Windows users who update their system regularly, are using service pack 3. That means a lot of people (and especially companies) have had problems with this week's update.

McAfee reacted quickly, and published a fix which would restore the damage. Nevertheless, the damage was already widespread, and I'm sure a lot of people didn't even know what was going wrong, let alone searching on McAfee's website for a fix. Also, a lot of system admins will agree with me that it's not "nice" when a problem - that was caused by an automatic update - has to be fixed manually on each affected computer.

It was a simple (and probably human) error, that caused system troubles in the entire world.

Securing an unsecure system

These problems started me thinking about virusscanners and OS safety in general. How is it even possible that other companies are making software that is required for an operating system to operate effectively? We need to have a virusscanner installed in order to keep our system stable. And what's even worse: most people think this is normal and have no problem with the fact that they bought a system that is inadequate in the first place.

To me, that doesn't sound normal at all. I can't even grasp how big companies like Microsoft can get away with selling software that is destined to crash if other company's would not be there to prevent it. Yes, I know that Microsoft offers their own security software too. But that's exactly what baffles me most: I really don't understand why they are putting effort in making software that fixes the errors of... their own software.

Treat the cause, not the symptom

This brings me to my conclusion: instead of depending on third party software to fix your own system, why not focus on trying to make your system as secure as possible? This will almost remove the need for anti malware programs that will never ever ensure total protection in the first place.

I do not want to pay for an operating system that is defective by default, and on top of that, pay for extra software that can never assure me that my system will remain safe from outsiders (or even from the program itself!). In my opinion, the only thing this kind of software does well, is making the computer operate slower than the user itself. I have never found antivirus software that runs silently without the user noticing it: it will always slow your system down considerably.

Alternatives are available

All those Linux distributions prove that it is possible to deliver a secure system that will stand against those daily threats on it's own. Even though virusscanners are availabe on Linux, they are not needed to assure a stable operating system. At this time these virusscanners are mostly used to remove viruses that affect Windows, and are really useful when using a Linux based server for mixed types of clients (Windows, Linux, Mac, ...).

Change is coming

If you have read throughout this lengthy post, and if you are looking for a more stable operating system, why not give one of the many Linux distributions a try? On top of the stability and security, you might like the user friendliness that is getting even better by the day. One suggestion: Ubuntu's new release is coming out in six days. You might like the change.

IEZY is a PHP and mySQL based object oriented content management system.
Copyright: Ben Van Aerde. (Stealing is baaad, mkay?)

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