Protection from Microsoft vulnerabilities

by Michael Smith

The operating system and its vulnerabilities is one thing that you, as the ordinary user, cannot do much about except for, and I am not an advocate of that really, downloading the Windows update patches and there are a number of reasons for that. Not the least one of them being that more than once now a patch from Microsoft has disabled one or the other software on my PC or one that used to run on the PC and now no longer does, such as the hardware encrypted USB sticks such as Sandisk Cruzer Enterprise and Data Traveler Black Box. The biggest laugh at the latter case is that MS then released a patch too correct the faulty patch – a hotfix. The problem is thought that the hotfix is fixing nothing, absolutely nothing.

It is obvious that I am not alone in this experience from those that use XP and who also have Cruzer Enterprise sticks that have stopped working. The failure of those USB devices is not due to any problem with the sticks themselves but with a Windows patch that messed things up and which is also non-removable.

On the other hand those vulnerabilities that come with, say, MS WORD, and MS OFFICE per se, in its various forms, can be overcome by using Open Source programs that do the same as those, such as Open Office. In addition to the fact that Open Office seems more stable than MS Word, for instance, I am, so far, unaware of any problems in the program, and, the best part, it is (1) totally compatible with MS Office files and saves them, if required, in that format too, and (2) it is a free program.

As for the problems with the operating system itself there too are other options available in the Open Source field, such as Linux, or others, and all those are also, as Open Office is, free.

What has to be said here is that Linux is NOT Windows and does not, necessarily, behave in the same way. For some, therefore, the use of Linux would be a learning curve of sorts though I cannot see any problems in that field.

Also Open Office is not MS Office, for instance, and some keyboard shortcuts, especially, are different to those in MS Office. However, they are very quickly picked up and I am sure that users will find Open Office as easy to use as MS Office. The advantage, once again, with Open Office is that it is not a proprietary software and can be installed from on CD, for instance, on as many computers as one would desire. There is no license fee payable and this makes it a great choice in today's climate; I am referring to the economic one and not the weather kind.

I have stitched from MS Word and Office some time back to Open Office and must say that I find Open Office easy to use and most things are as good as in MS Word, as far as the word processor is concerned. And added bonus, as far as I am concerned, is the “one click” PDF conversion that is built into Open Office and has been so for ages, making it in this way miles ahead of Microsoft and its Office program where, as far as I am aware, we do not, as yet, unless it is something that has come out in the latest version of Office, have that facility.

I will happily admit that one of my main reasons to go for Open Office was firstly that it is Open Source software and that, hence, I did not have to buy a license from deal old Microsoft it means that it was also free; free as in gratis. But, I am digressing again.

It seems to me that, primarily, unless I am very mistaken, those lapses with holes in software and those exploitable vulnerabilities, whether operating systems or other programs, seem to be a rather inherent problem with Microsoft. It always gets to me that they expect people to also pay for all those vulnerabilities that, in the end, can cause us problems.

While it is true that the likes of the Firefox browser – an Open Source Internet Explorer replacement – also, occasionally, has flaws, they get patched very fast and also the kind of protection that has been part of Firefox for a long time already Microsoft is only now bringing in.

Some would say that the reason that, for instance, Linux is free from viruses because there are no viruses written for it for the simple reason that it is not as common as Windows and Apple, the way I see it is also that Linux works differently and no changes to the kernel and such can be made without the administrator's password. Sure things like that could also be put into Windows? Makes you wonder as to whether some people are in cahoots with others to generate more money.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009