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Does Vista need AV or not?
Written by Gizmo   
Wednesday, 15 November 2006 09:46

Last week, outgoing Microsoft President Jim Allchin observed that his son ran Vista on his home system with no Anti-virus software .  This immediately caused a furor among the press; no one could believe that someone would be running a computer in this day and age without AV software installed.

This week, some in the industry are beginning to wonder why it should be such a big deal to run a system with no AV software.

In principle, of course, it should be possible for a normal user to run software on their machine to do the kinds of things they expect to be able to do without having to deal with the headaches of viruses, trojans, and spyware being installed on their machine.  To their credit, Microsoft have worked very hard on making Vista a much more secure system than previous versions of Windows, including a default out-of-the-box operating mode that has the permissions cranked down much more than in the past.

Any one who who has experience with any of the various Unix flavors will not be the least bit surprised that this has happened; indeed, the question will be 'why has it taken so long' because they have been doing this as a matter of course for years.  Unfortunately, truly secure and locked-down configurations tend to require someone with some technical expertise to be able to administer such systems.  Is it reasonable to expect Joe Sixpack (or Grandma) to either have such expertise, or to call Best Buy every time they have some issue caused by some poorly written piece of software that requires permissions it doesn't need?

Or what about web sites that require you to enable certain functionality in order to be usable, when said functionality was disabled in the default configuration?  A prime example of this is Disney's ToonTown, which requires the user to make extensive modifications to IE (which, by the way, is the only browser they support, because of Active-X requirements) in order to download their objects.  The instructions given on the web site for how to do this result in a less secure machine.  So now what do we do?  We've just rendered Windows less secure, and increased the need for Anti-virus, anti-phishing, and anti-spyware packages.

Give us your thoughts, in the forums!  


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