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Norton Antivirus Review, Microsoft security leaks surfacing.

Microsoft takes another credibility hit

In the wake of last weeks illicit distribution of huge chunks of it’s operating system source code (The raw text files of legible programming code from which the final software is compiled) for Windows2000 and NT4, Microsoft’s “renewed focus on software security” takes on a very hollow ring. Armed with this raw data which has already been posted to and downloaded from peer-to-peer networks thousands of times, hackers are given insight into the proprietary methods used by Microsoft to secure their software and develop methods circumvent those security measures, infiltrate the software and wreak havoc on the millions of companies and private individuals using this software.

Comments surfacing in favor of open source operating systems such as Linux and “Sure glad I have a MAC” may or may not be valid. It’s all speculation on my part but if either of these two were on top of the heap instead of Microsoft, I have to wonder if they would not then become the primary target of hackers as well. No doubt, Microsoft’s inherent lack of concern for the general public interest has contributed to their focus as a target for hackers but would they devote as much energy to it if Microsoft was not on top? Do hackers steer away from MAC and Linux because they’re inherently more secure and more difficult to crack? Because they want to level the playing field? Or because they need a life?

If someone ever actually does succeed in taking down the software giant enough steps to level the playing field, it will be interesting to see what hackers do with their creative energies then. Build something constructive perhaps? Build their own fortunes in the process? I doubt it. They’re smart but not that smart.

What it means for those of us using Microsoft products is, even if we thought we were diligent before at keeping up to date with critical patches and updates, now we must step up those efforts even more and hope Microsoft stays on top of the threats as they are exposed, unlike one such critical flaw that took them over 6 months to release a patch for as reported on atC|Net News.com. Just this week I downloaded two new critical updates to Win2000 that were not available just one week ago. For most of us it’s on our Start menus right at the top labeled “Windows Update”. Use it. All it takes is reading and following the instructions carefully. Depending on how long it’s been since you last updated your operating system, it could take several cycles of downloading, installing and rebooting before you’re finished. Fear not. It’s still all very much “paint by numbers”. And it is absolutely necessary.

Even those of us using other MS operating systems such as 98, ME and XP should take heed and perform the same updates regularly. Once a month at the very least. Many times there are no new updates to apply but it’s still worth checking anyway.

You’ll find more fascinating reading on this topic at the New York Times and CNN web sites.

More reasons to label with ICRA

I learned a bit about Google Page Ranking the other day and the value others place on it. Although there are many factors which determine the rank of your web site in search results at Google, some of which weigh more heavily, the buzz these days is over PR because it’s one variable that can somewhat be manipulated. A web page or domain with a PR6 or higher at Google is very desirable, not only for your own ranking but it also lends some of that same credibility to other sites linked to from those pages, helping them achieve higher PRs of their own. It has become such a commodity online lately that many web sites have used it to leverage the fees they charge for links placed on their sites back to yours.

Refutable search engine developers seek to deliver relevant results. Many web developers seek to manipulate the relevance of their sites by manipulating the results at search engines often polluting searches with non-relevant results. Search engines hate it when web developers do this. It’s the classic cat and mouse game. Which is why Google does not rely on one algorithm alone but several, rotating them occasionally to keep it a moving target, thwarting the efforts of opportunists seeking their 15 minutes of fame at the top.

I learned of all this quite by accident in the developer news groups I subscribe to that relate to the search engine software employed at SurfSafely.com. Someone posted a message asking for links back to his domain from sites that had a PR6 or higher. Some replied to check their prices while boasting of their PR7. The poor guy who made the post was blown away at the exorbitant fees these others were asking for to be listed on their sites.

What I have learned over the years is that search engines such as Google, AltaVista and AllTheWeb seek to reward developers who take the high road and not deliberately manipulate their rankings. Everyone gets their moment in the sun. My reward for this is a PR7 at Google for all pages at SurfSafely.com! It’s no wonder people find their SurfSafely.com directory listings on Google above their own direct links. And what fee do I charge for being listed at a PR7 web site? Zero! All I ask is that developers take responsibility for their content, label with ICRA and be rewarded with more traffic because of it.

Proof positive that labeling matters. Proof positive that labeling pays.

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