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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 12:33 GMT
Is Windows safe?
Microsoft has warned of a "critical" security flaw in some versions of its popular Windows operating system.

The problem affects older versions of Windows such as 2000, Millennium, and 98, but not its newest version, Windows XP.

The flaw could allow malicious hackers to get into a computer, change webpages or reformat a hard drive.

The software giant has urged users to download a software fix from the company's security website.

Are you worried that your computer could be hacked? Is Windows safe?

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This Talking Point is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Many people blame Microsoft for all these security problems and say that if everyone switched over to a "Secure" Operating system such as Linux we would all be alright. The fact is though, if everyone ran Linux instead of Windows, people would write find ways of attacking Linux machines instead. I think that Microsoft do a very good job considering the number people they are up against.
Mark Fid, France

The hysterical approach to computer security risks is just a new Luddism.

Bernard, UK
Your phone can quite easily be bugged, your mail can be intercepted, surveillance technology means that nowhere, public or private, can be guaranteed safe. Your personal records held anywhere, whether computerised or manual, can be altered. Any reasonably competent espionage field agent can enter and search your house or office without leaving a trace. Security of your PC is no different to all these, and the hysterical approach to computer security risks is just a new Luddism.
Bernard, UK

Surely they're just forcing an upgrade on us! I guess Microsoft will make similarly damaging remarks about XP as soon as the next version is released.
Joel, UK

I'm no great advocate of Microsoft, but I think they get an unfairly bad press. I believe they do take security seriously, especially over the last year where they have delayed product launches to ensure security was as good as they could make it. I actually think it is amazing that Microsoft does so well keeping up with patching the security flaws as soon as they become apparent. Perhaps people should try giving Microsoft more support and credit rather than always trying to knock them.
Chris S, UK

The fact is that people out there have brains. It doesn't matter what Microsoft do in testing code there will always be ways round security. The typical key lock has been around for centuries. Has anyone ever come up with a key lock that cannot be opened by a determined burglar?.
Steve McKay, Scotland

It is simply impossible to fully test software as complex as this.

George, UK
Windows is a massive software package. I read somewhere recently that it contains over a billion lines of code. It is simply impossible to fully test software as complex as this. If you are a Windows user and don't want to be hacked when accessing the web, buy a firewall (XP has one built in) and check your Internet Explorer security settings are correct.
George, UK

In response to George who believes that it is impossible to expect Microsoft to test 1 billion lines of code. That is the inherent problem. There shouldn't be 1 billion lines of code. Before the proliferation of the Redmond beast it was possible to build a whole mainframe system that could run the biggest bank in the world with less lines of code than it takes Microsoft to operate a PC. The problem is their approach to software development.
Chris, UK

Windows 2000 and XP now have a level of security to rival that of traditionally 'secure' operating systems such as Unix (including Linux). The main problem is not with the OS, but with the users who practice bad habits downloading and installing anything they find on the web and not installing the updates that are published. Even operating systems like Linux have security holes that need to be patched from time to time. Even though I am a great fan of Linux I believe the people unfairly punish Microsoft for being insecure.

The fact that windows products are so widely used is a great advantage to anyone who does practice good security (i.e. using virus checkers, installing a firewall) as security holes are found and patched before the vast majority of users are affected.
Simon I, Sweden

I don't have any sensitive information on my computer.

Alex, UK
I don't have nor would I put any sensitive information on my computer. Private stuff is stored on rewritable CDs. No matter what patches Microsoft makes there is always going to be a 13 year old kid in Backwater USA who will find a way around it.
Alex, UK

Windows has always been full of holes. Buy a Mac instead. I've been running Macs for 6 years now and never had a virus or security breach. Also hackers don't tend to make viruses for the Mac as they won't do as much global damage as a Windows virus would.
al platt, UK

Those of us who work in this industry know that Windows is often released without full testing. The thing I most object to is that many of the Microsoft products are flaky but the 'easter eggs' (for example the pinball game or flight simulator hidden in microsoft office) appear to have been fully tested!
caron, england

Re: Caron. Sorry, I "work in this industry" and I've personally beta tested most of the OS versions that MS has put out. They do test extensively it's just as some of the others have noted, there is too much to test. People desire all of the greatest features and implementing that can leave loopholes. And as far as the other systems being "more" secure, I think when (if) the hackers get tired of tearing up Windows, they will certainly turn their attention to the other OSs in full force. It is just as possible to exploit Linux and Mac OS as it is to exploit Windows.
Mike, USA

Nice of Microsoft to let people know what we have known for years. Its been the reason why so many viruses have been so effective for such a long time.
Keith Millar, UK


See also:

21 Nov 02 | Technology
17 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
21 Dec 01 | Science/Nature
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