Opinion: A Really Popular Lib Dem Policy Proposal – Free Anti-Viral Software!

Free anti-viral software to every citizen. This should be adopted immediately as core Lib Dem policy, and be in the manifesto for the next election. Like Roman bread and circuses, it would be a hugely popular vote-puller. It would propel the party to first place in the polls. Moreover it is also intellectually defensible, a rare combination of virtue in today’s post-modern sound-bite world.

You might smile and think this is typical wacky Lib Dem stuff, the kind of thing which George Orwell’s bearded fruit juice-drinking Liberals, wearing shorts and sandals, would come up with. Not for today’s smart-suited Lib Dems…

But I’m serious. Justice policy needs to catch up in the virtual world to match the role it plays in the physical world. Our physical property is defended in principle in law, and in action by the police and courts. Our intellectual property rights are similarly defended in patent law. But we are expected to protect our virtual world, our software rights, our e-mails and web sites, ourselves at our own cost.

We have to rely on potentially unreliable independent private sector anti-virus companies. They may well have perverse incentives, either not to spend sufficiently to offer full protection, or even in really perverse cases, to release viruses themselves! Current providers’ software is in any case imposing a huge universal toll in increased task processing time for everything we do on our computers. This really is having a significant effect on administrative and managerial efficiency in the economy.

Such a policy would of course have a cost. The government would need to extend GCHQ to include a team of top rate virus software detection and protection programmers. But firstly the cost could be shared by inviting other national governments into a bilateral, multilateral, EU-wide, or even a global scheme. Secondly it’s right that citizens should be protected by the state. If people started throwing stones at my house windows, the police would come straight round.

And thirdly, the economic benefits of a virus free virtual world are huge, particularly if a government anti-virus program operated without slowing down processing tasks as heavily as current packages do. Finally it would create jobs in Cheltenham 🙂 Eventually, it might even place UK as a global software leader with its own public sector anti-virus champion to stand alongside Microsoft, Google, Facebook and………. (dream on).

Is there any possible argument against this policy?

* Geoff Crocker is a professional economist writing on technology at www.philosophyoftechnology.com; a contributor to Basic Income Earth Network, www.basicincome.org; and runs ‘The Case for Basic Income’ at www.ubi.org.

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62 Comments

  • Toby MacDonnell 21st Oct '12 - 11:44am

    There are a number of free anti-virus software out there. There are also a number of virus-free, UNIX based operating systems out there which are incompatible with most Windows-targeted malware: I personally use Ubuntu.

    The real problem, as I see is, is a lack of consumer awareness. Consumers who don’t have an idea of what free virus software is out there, who don’t know that there is an alternative to Windows, and who are at a strong disadvantage when they walk into PC World and become reliant on the staff who need that all-important suggestive-sell.

    Hopefully the release of Windows 8 will be controversial enough with regular users that operating systems like Linux Mint, Google Chrome (or Android!) might become a popular alternative, especially now Steam is being released for Ubuntu. We might just be entering that exciting period like we had in the 80s when we had genuine competition in the PC market again.

  • Massive unemployment, real poverty, benefits being stripped, energy and food costs going through the roof and this is all you can come up with to win votes? As has been said there is already free anti virus out there, AVG, Spybot, Spyware Blaster to name but three and there are more.. A hugely popular vote puller? No. A way to link us all into GCHQ? Yes.

  • Peter Davies 21st Oct '12 - 12:13pm

    Why should the government pay? Any company that knowing sells an operating system with massive security holes in it should be liable for any damage caused.

  • Further to Martijn’s comments, if the government were to provide free virus software for every home then why not free locks to protect our physical property?

    Competition ensures that independent private sector anti-virus companies can’t afford to be unreliable otherwise they’ll lose out to more effective competitors as well as ensuring there are a multitude of different ant-virus packages which the creator of a virus would need to defeat. Where the government potentially does have a role is in raising awareness of the issue, in a similar way to crime prevention initiatives with physical property.

    As for ‘increased task processing time’ , any virus scanner will have some impact., but here again competition helps. The anti-virus developer who can combine effective protection with minimal impact on the computer resources it requires is going to have a competitive advantage.

  • Richard Dean 21st Oct '12 - 12:39pm

    Helicopter Economics?

    In Trinidad and Tobago, a second-world country in the West Indies, every secondary schoolchild gets a free laptop, with all the software the children need including email and internet access. I’m pretty sure it includes anti-virus too.

    Time for the UK to catch up?

  • Geoff Crocker 21st Oct '12 - 12:51pm

    I see that there’s not much sense of fun out there in LDV circles 🙁 So I’d better treat the comments very seriously. I’m never sure why smart commentators always start with ‘Um’, Dan but yes I have heard of AVG and of Avast which I use. But the point is why we should have to rely on private initiative to protect us from crime in the virtual sphere? What if AVG, Avast and others decided not to bother? How do we know how effective they are (in protecting our virtual world whilst slowing it down as little as possible) anyway?

    Anne I don’t see that this proposal can’t be made alongside other proposals to seriously tackle major issues? I have contributed several Op-eds on the economic crisis, austerity etc. as well as this light hearted piece. See https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-the-conflicts-of-economic-policy-30536.html for example.

    Martijn and Mark have a better point comparing anti-virus software to door locks rather than to the police. But I repeat my point that if people were consistently throwing stones at my windows, the police would come round (they even offered psychological counselling to one of my neighbours who had had their garden bench stolen!). But I don’t agree with you Mark about competition. The market is massively monopolised by Microsoft. Despite the availability of alternative browsers, most users demonstrate inertia and lack of technical ability to navigate their way round. Your suggestion that we can discover which AV supplier offers best protection at least processing speed cost is a hope too far for the free market.

    Anyway, the nation needs a fun policy alongside all the gloom 🙂 (as well Anne as a fiscal economic stimulus).

  • Richard Dean 21st Oct '12 - 1:07pm

    Fun is not a word in the LibDem dictionary, Geoff. It has too many letters. Concepts of free thinking, creativity, brainstorming without barriers, all that, they are for the far distant future !!!! 🙂

  • Geoff Crocker 21st Oct '12 - 1:15pm

    Well Jedibeeftrix, some government services actually do achieve service standards equivalent to best private sector practice. The Passport Office, DVLA and the NHS in many though not all of its parts, are good examples.

  • John Richardson 21st Oct '12 - 1:18pm

    I bet GCHQ and such would just love the chance to install software on all our computers that examines every byte in and out, entered and deleted!

  • Geoff Crocker 21st Oct '12 - 1:20pm

    Andrew, yes I support your anti-Microsoft stance. They are simply dreadful, totally unresponsive, and have deliberately killed higher quality competition, But is Free Software really viable and free from viral attack?

  • Geoff Crocker 21st Oct '12 - 1:23pm

    OK, for the nervous, GCHQ was a bad choice of supplier 🙂 I accept a policy amendment on this point.

    But does this imply that we are vulnerable to the same invasion you are complaining about from AV suppliers we do use? In which case, what’s the difference?

  • Paul in Twickenham 21st Oct '12 - 1:27pm

    Hmm… rather than using tax payers’ money to remediate security flaws in products that are sold by private companies for private profit – such as Apple and Microsoft – would it not be better to use the money to improve awareness of the availability of open source alternatives ?

    Like Toby we use Ubuntu 12.04 on all of our computers at home. It is completely free, very secure and stable, looks attractive and comes with (for free and at very high quality) every imaginable piece of software that anyone could wish for. including a complete office suite that is compatible with Microsoft’s Very Expensive Office.

  • Geoff Crocker 21st Oct '12 - 1:34pm

    Hmm,.. um… etc, A terrible thoought, but what if Avast, AVG, Ubuntu and others are fronts for GCHQ or someone worse? How otherwise DO they fund their free AV software?

  • John Richardson 21st Oct '12 - 1:44pm

    The odds of getting a virus on a modern fully up to date operating system are tiny – so long as you don’t blindly override the security already in place. And that’s the crux – it’s mainly user incompetence that allows viruses to spread not O/S insecurities. (Nitpicker note: I’m not saying such drive-by attacks don’t exist but they are rare and ephemeral.)

    Once upon a time people claimed Macs to be immune from viruses but as soon as they started entering the mainstream that all changed. It’ll be the same with Linux desktops, if they ever becomes usable enough to accumulate large numbers of ordinary users. Because no matter how bug-free the software is, and Linux desktops are no where near as battle hardened as Windows or Mac OS, the only thing standing between a virus and its target is the user and their password.

    Unless ordinary users become a lot more security savvy, IMO not a realistic expectation, AV software will be necessary on any mainstream platform.

  • Paul in Twickenham 21st Oct '12 - 2:15pm

    John – the fundamental difference between Linux and Mac/Windows is that Linux is open source. Open source is an intrinsically more secure model for software development and deployment – if the Trojan horse had been made of glass then it would never have worked. As for the question of usability – have you tried installing Ubuntu 12.04? I would be very surprised if the experience was not straightforward and the quality is excellent. I should say that I have no professional or financial interest in Linux, I am simply reflecting my overwhelmingly positive experience.

  • Geoff Crocker 21st Oct '12 - 2:17pm

    Thanks Andrew, you clearly know your way round the techie world.But you have to accept that most users do not have your capability. Like car drivers, they simply want something which goes, effectively and safely. Noone has yet commented on what seems to me to be the increasing processing speed cost of AV software? Maybe a better policy than free AV would be some support for the rest of us to be able to implement the solutions the techies of you say are available? But IBM??? There’s an opportunity for us to offer something people would welcome.

  • John Richardson 21st Oct '12 - 2:20pm

    Andrew, I don’t disagree with your comments about the virtues of Linux as such. But ordinary users are not going to be inclined to pick and choose fundamental components of the O/S. They’ll install something easy like Ubuntu and take whatever comes with it. Just look how much inertia there is to moving away from Internet Explorer – a component that is easily replaced on Windows.

    My main point about Linux (or any OS) is that it doesn’t matter how secure it is or how well designed. It’ll never stop people clicking on the ‘dancing bunnies’ if that’s what they want. Any system that could do that would be too inflexible to be useful.

  • “The odds of getting a virus on a modern fully up to date operating system are tiny”

    However to update your system you have to connect to the internet. So there is always a window where an unprotected system with know security flaws is connected and ready to be exploited.

    The mean time to infection was less than 30s according to some research I saw on the register once. If you’ve got a router with a firewall then you’re probably ok, but otherwise you’re infected before the update has even finished running.

    Also this seems more than relevant:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/adriankingsleyhughes/2012/10/17/hospital-medical-devices-rampant-with-computer-viruses/

  • “Open source is an intrinsically more secure model for software development and deployment – if the Trojan horse had been made of glass then it would never have worked.”

    Isn’t it more like the walls of Troy being made of glass?

  • John Richardson 21st Oct '12 - 3:05pm

    Paul, I would agree that software developed in the open perhaps has a lower risk of being deliberately subverted – although it is not entirely immune. But there are far far bigger factors affecting the quality and security of software generally.

    Andrew, you forgot one step after installation. You then quite often need to trawl through websites trying to get all your hardware to work! A colleague of mine tells me hes’s finally got a version of the Linux kernel that allows the lid switch on his laptop to properly bring the O/S out of sleep mode. The jury is still on our whether his fingerprint scanner will ever work. Oops I shouldn’t go there, this thread is not about that. 🙂

    Let me add my own car analogy to the mix. Windows really does have a steering wheel, brakes and an accelerator pedal. It also has lots of nice options like climate control and satellite navigation. Linux has Sat Nav, too, but it is almost exclusively driven by people who know not to drive down dodgy country lanes or into rivers. All the people who just can’t wait to drive down obscure mud tracks to meet the long lost nephew of a prince of Nigeria all own Windows, and increasingly, Macs.

  • I’ve used free AV for years. They’re mostly fine.
    A lot of the expensive AV systems are actually pushed by PC seller, most notably a certain ubiquitous system that takes up too much space.

  • John Richardson 21st Oct '12 - 3:17pm

    Andrew, the argument about component diversity only applies if the malware is exploiting a bug. I conceded that is a virtue of the Linux way. But my main argument is that malware is primarily not about bugs at all but about users being tricked into deliberately overriding the security offered by the O/S. Malware can easily be constructed to run on any Linux platform with the user’s unwitting cooperation.

    I know we can never prove our respective cases unless or until Linux desktops take off. But our arguments proved to be true about Macs! We’ll see about Linux…

  • John Richardson 21st Oct '12 - 3:39pm

    Andrew, I only know because I goaded it out of him. He never admitted it otherwise. 🙂 In contrast to your experience I’ve never installed Linux on any desktop or laptop where everything worked out of the box. Admittedly I’ve not installed it on that many computers. Ubuntu came close with my old laptop but the wireless kept dropping out and the power button didn’t behave properly. (The lid did work, I might add!) On my desktop the main problems were the second monitor would flicker constantly and one of the fans would run constantly high (not sure if CPU or graphics). Now you’ll never be able to say never again. I don’t want to come across as anti-Linux, btw, – running Ubuntu in a VM is far superior to Cygwin. :p

  • “Free anti-viral software to every citizen. This should be adopted immediately as core Lib Dem policy, and be in the manifesto for the next election.”

    Does the phrase “Yes and ho!” mean anything?

    It must be about 10 years since I paid for anti-virus software

  • Geoff Crocker 21st Oct '12 - 11:03pm

    Thanks to all those who have added intelligent comments to my piece, especially those who are clearly software industry experts. Having read these, my revised suggestion for a Lib Dem policy would now be : We need government policy and action in the Internet and software industry –

    1 Anti-viral software is significantly increasing processing times for all regular everyday administrative computer user routines. Some packages are free but many users feel nervous of these and so are incurring protection costs. I run a small business where the admin managers are constantly frustrated by the reduced speed in simple operations like opening applications, files etc. I suspect this is in fact having a quite serious effect on administrative efficiency and productivity throughout the economy. This is therefore not a trivial issue as some have suggested. It is an issue where government needs to act. Governments also have a duty of protection.

    2 There may well be better operating software, applications software and anti viral software platforms and solutions than most of us use, as cited by the industry experts who have commented in the above thread. However, several of the contributors use vocabulary and refer to systems which are entirely incomprehensible to the majority of ordinary users. The advice being given may be technically correct, but IT experts massively underestimate the extent to which ordinary users fail to comprehend their terminology, and are either unable or lack the time to effect the various downloads and systems reconfigurations required.

    3 A lesser policy proposal than a free government anti-viral service might be a government watchdog of the software and Internet sectors? The policy objective could be i) to roll out high speed Internet to a large percentage of UK users within a limited time scale ii) to offer an advice web site / line to support users in getting assured virus protection at sustained processing times, iii) to seek a more competitive supplier sector in the UK, less dominated by the Microsoft monopoly (since monopolies are always demonstrably inefficient). This help line/ web page could do what the average user cannot do, ie undertake and publish the results of extensive tests of various anti-viral software packages showing their effectiveness at protection (eg protects against x% of all known viruses) and their effect on processing speed for regular computing tasks. Users could then be assisted with simple instructions as to how to implement the offering they select. If the watchdog service found that the market was providing acceptable solutions to these policy objectives then fine, but if not, then commercial suppliers could be invited to tender to meet a set of requirements specifications. If necessary the watchdog could fund commercial development to fill any market shortfall in meeting these requirements specifications.

    We’ve got watchdogs for energy (and huge current concern about over-complex energy tariffs), for education etc, so why not for the Internet and software sector which is so core to our work and living?

    Any better? I still reckon it would go down very well on the doorstep 🙂

  • Geoff Crocker 22nd Oct '12 - 6:28am

    Andrew I think that your later 1246am post is the right direction. Your previous 1222 am post comparin g the vast majority of intelligent computer users (who happen not to understand the terminology of several of your previous posts), unfavourably to your four year old nephew, and claiming that we are ‘refusing to listen to people who do know what they’re talking about’ is too typical of the aloof attitude of the IT expert fraternity. You’re right – we need effective anti-monopoly policy in action. This was the direction of my last post in proposing a government watchdog tasked to ensure that effective competition delivers. For the vast majority of users, we are not there now.

  • Paul in Twickenham 22nd Oct '12 - 8:51am

    Andrew makes an interesting suggestion. Rather than being forced to pay the “Bill tax” – ie the OEM royalty to Microsoft for a copy of windows on a new computer – it should be made clear and explicit on the sealed envelope that contains the licence key how to return it to Microsoft (thus never launching windows) to receive a refund on the price of an OS that you neither need nor want.

    Windows 7 Home Premium has an OEM price of $110 per copy so that’s a substantial chunk of the cost of a typical home laptop. I’m sure that’s something the EU could manage to do. Possibly.

  • John Richardson 22nd Oct '12 - 10:57am

    Andrew, I didn’t say users are stupid. Most people just don’t understand what they’re doing and are never taught otherwise. If they did there’d be no need for AV at all. I’ve never used it and have never had a problem. Ironically, it may be the widespread misinformation about Windows security which convinces them to blame the O/S rather than reflect on and learn from their own mistakes! What AV does is to add additional hurdles to doing the wrong thing. It automatically deletes known trojans and flashes up scary warnings about risky actions. That’s a lot more effective than the benign ‘please enter your password to run…’ boxes which O/S ‘s throw up. Yes, AV misses things and a determined user can override it so it is not 100% effective but it is a lot better than the password box.

  • “Free anti-viral software to every citizen.” Nice sound-bite, just not thought through …

    Yes, the fundamental challenge as pointed out by others is that the average member of the public doesn’t really grasp: the full gambit of security features needed on a modern Internet connected ‘computer’ to keep it both running properly and to prevent unauthorised access and use, and the ways to use the system so as to gain maximum benefit from the security features. And the “why should they?” is a totally valid retort.

    Whilst I can usefully compare and contrast the modern car industry and it’s products with the modern IT industry and it’s products, I personally believe that the correct response to the main thrust of Geoff’s article is to follow the mass market car industry and introduce standards against which products can be tested against, along with funding for the independent testing houses needed to conduct such tests. Hence enabling a normal person to go into a high street store and select a ‘computer’ with a degree of confidence that provided it carries particular badges/awards, powered on in it’s out-of-the-box configuration it will satisfy certain ‘objective’ security standards. NB I deliberately use ‘computer’ in quotes as today and moving forward computers are disappearing from view, my Internet-ready/enabled TV contains a computer, as does my all-in-one printer/scanner/copier and so do and will many other devices.

    With respect to WiFi routers this has largely been achieved – through the WiFi-Alliance certification scheme, with the majority of consumer devices now implementing WPA2-PSK security out-of-the-box rather than the totally broken WEP security many such devices supported 4+ years back (it is a shame that many public hotspots still continue to offer open and hence totally insecure WiFi access, when secure solutions do exist and can easily be implemented. Yes this doesn’t prevent users from using simple pass codes, (in the same way that many houses still use simple latch front door locks rather than more secure mortice locks), but it is still a whole lot better than no security.

    Setting standards is a lot easier, quicker and cheaper than having the government effectively nationalising computer security, it also provides the space for enterprise.

  • Geoff Crocker 22nd Oct '12 - 4:47pm

    Roland I accept what you say, and my revised policy proposal posted in this thread last night moves in the same direction. But you don’t address the issue of the significant slowing of processing times and their effect on overall productivity in the ecoonomy?

    It does seem to me that if, as the experts contributing to this thread claim, there is a simple solution immediately available, then our IT experts are massively at fault in their failure to communicate this and implement it throughout the user community, leaving most of us trudging on with Windows, Internet Explorer, WORD, Excel, Powerpoint, Norton et al. 🙁

  • Paul in Twickenham 22nd Oct '12 - 7:11pm

    Geoff
    You’ll find that within the “IT User Community” (whatever that might be) it is well understood that Microsoft and Apple are operating what is in effect a cartel in the consumer PC market. Microsoft have a very rigid licencing model with the OEMs and Apple has that hermetically sealed hardware/software model that is absolutely antithetical to everything that open source stands for.

    The solution to the logjam is legislation. Microsoft enjoy a monopoly position in the PC desktop market by virtue of being there on first startup of the computer. If your PC cost you £70 less and on first startup you saw an option to “use the installed desktop Linux for free or use your credit card to unlock the copy of Windows on this computer for £80” then what would happen? Given the growth in popularity of the (Linux based) android platform for tablet and phone OS, I think that people are clearly becoming much more comfortable with the whole idea of Linux as a primary OS.

    There’s one other upside to a linux OS – it’s lightweight compared with Windows. The laptop on which I am working right now is 6 years old. It’s running 32-bit Ubuntu linux 12.04 with all the free additional software I can imagine ever needing, the desktop looks fresh and contemporary and the performance is excellent. If I had tried to run Windows 7 on this machine it would tell me that I need to chuck this piece of junk away and buy a new laptop that is able to cope with the demands of a “modern” OS. But I’m out of that cosy loop between the hardware and OS vendors that makes planned obsolescence an inevitability.

    Oddly enough I sometimes boot this laptop into Windows just to update the security patches. It takes for ever to start up, the disk thrashes while it is downloading the security patches and my language while I’m waiting for it to finish would make a sailor blush. It is always a relief to return to Ubuntu. Try it yourself. It’s easy. But don’t tell Bill (Gates, not Le Breton).

  • Geoff
    >But you don’t address the issue of the significant slowing of processing times and their effect on overall productivity in the ecoonomy?
    The performance hit of the various security packages is variable and is highly depending on many factors, however contained in your problem statement you mention small business’es and give an example from your experience. In my experience I would suggest that many micro and small businesses and particularly those run by non-IT people, use consumer grade solutions for two important reasons: firstly because they and/or friends are familiar with these products and where to obtain them, secondly they tend to be ‘cheaper’ and ‘less involved’ than business-grade solutions, (hence I would question whether your admin managers are using an appropriate security suite and whether it is correctly configured). Aside: I find it telling that in-store business support services have reappeared after their exit from the high street in the late 1980’s.

    What this means is that there are two key user groups that probably need to be targeted: consumers and micro/small businesses – for practically the same reasons.

    As for the possible overall productivity impact of security software on the economy, I’m less convinced about, particularly as I know from first hand experience just how big an impact the aftermath of a zero day attack can be before taking into consideration client commitments … and secondly malware is becoming less about trashing your computer but extracting bank account details and ‘legitimate’ revenue from it’s victims.

  • Geoff Crocker 23rd Oct '12 - 10:28am

    Andrew, you represent the supplier (you work for IBM?). I represent the user. The situation out there on the ground is the radical opposite of what you suggest should be the case. Windows, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, WORD, Excel, Powerpoint, Norton dominate the user scene. Microsoft play their games on this compliant user set who suddenly find for example that their Sage accounting and payroll system doesn’t work on Windows 7 . Most of the users are far too busy running demanding businesses to do other than the minimum with all this.Rather than supporting this monopoly as you claim, I am totally against it. I don’t necessarily want government to become a supplier in the secto, but I do propose a government watchdog and user help line to help people do what you say they so easily can.

    Instead of being so aggressive with me, the representative user, why don’t you get out there and sort it? You are welcome to fix it at my business for a reasonable fee.

  • If a government sponsored anti-virus system stopped as much cyber-crime as the real police do with private property the internet would be dead in minutes.

  • @Geoff
    re: Sage suddenly not working with Windows 7

    Yes, small businesses are particularly at the mercy of their suppliers, particularly those that have become the defacto standard – This problem (namely key business applications not working with the latest version of Windows) arises quite often because being a small business you buy computers in the retail market and so get very little choice over the platform OS, so your need to upgrade from typically a very stable Windows XP platform – that has been running for several years, typically arises because a computer needs to be replaced or a new member of staff needs a computer, obviously such a computer will have the latest operating system pre-installed; currently this is Windows 7 and in a few weeks it will be Windows 8… Once you get over the different look and feel you then hit the problems of all the changes, applications and printer drivers not working etc. etc. and with applications like Sage, just getting the latest version is just the beginning of a non-trivial migration of your accounting data – and lets not go to the differences between documents produced in Office 2007/2010 to the previous versions installed on all your other computers …

    At least with Sage the updates do come out relatively soon after new releases of Windows, I have worked with Microsoft-platform based Enterprise products where because of their complexity and revenues obtainable from the installed base the update has been released several years later…

    Unfortunately, from experiences in the Enterprise space, I do not see computers with Linux or any other operating system solving this particular supply problem.

    >”You are welcome to fix it at my business for a reasonable fee.”
    Thank you for the invitation, however I suspect you may not regard my fee as reasonable.

  • John Richardson 23rd Oct '12 - 1:21pm

    Andrew’s entire argument is predicated on the assumption that Windows is the problem. It doesn’t account for a few facts:

    * Windows can be run safely without A/V.
    * Malware is now a serious problem on Mac OS.
    * Mac OS has the same security model as Linux.
    * All the same starry-eyed arguments we’ve heard in this thread about Linux were also made about the Mac and they have been proved wrong.

    There’s a pretty good case for cracking the MS O/S monopoly anyway, but as a solution to malware it’s snake oil. There’s no silver bullet to this problem.

  • Adding to John’s list:

    Malware has already moved in to the browser and man-in-the-browser exploits are becoming more common, with the announcement of a cross-platform proof of concept main-in-the-browser exploit (see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/10/23/browser_botnet/ for details).
    I predict it won’t be long before we see the first HTML5 exploit, which due to the nature of HMTL5 will also be cross-platform and cross-browser…

  • Of course the other side of this “discussion” is that policing is so bad in this country and the Crime Commissioners are not going to do much about that, so we should be privatising policing (and courts), clearly using the model of current competitive anti-virus software as a model. Now *that’s* liberal 🙂

  • Geoff Crocker 23rd Oct '12 - 9:09pm

    Dave Page, I am not dismissing Andrew’s excellent points. He and I clearly agree about the unacceptability of Microsoft’s near monopoly in the sector. I think Andrew has misunderstood my proposal for government regulation and advice line, as I intended this to resist MS and help users shift to alternative platforms which is what Andrew is suggesting. I’m only pointing out that a very large number of users are not aware of the apparent ease of this option. I am also quite seriously offering my small 3 site business installation as an example to demonstrate this ease. The only difference for me is that I don’t want to do it myself. Too busy with other responsibilities. I’m not in total ignorance either (used to write apps in APL at IBM UK Scientific Centre in my youth), but I don’t want to be involved with the technical details of contemporary systems. I just don’t want to get under the bonnet. I am and want to stay a user. So to test the claim of ease of shifting platforms and apps, I’d need to know a contractor in Bristol who’d do this for me? I’d be happy to report back. But how do we overcome the point Roland has responded to, ie that MS dominates the apps? Every attached file I receive from all colleagues worldwide is an MS file. All our business apps are MS based. I’d like to think that this can all be changed for 30 mins work per site but I rather think it’s more complex? At this point I’d be quite sincerely delighted to be proved wrong.

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