EliaShim, a small, Haifa-based anti-virus developer, has succeeded in putting multinational Microsoft to shame for a week and counting. Apparently, Microsoft hasn’t yet fully understood what damage the "hostile links" hullabaloo is causing the company’s good name. Bill Gates’ staff, it seems, are far too proud to call on EliaShim’s staff, or general manager Shimon Gruper.
Says Gruper: "Last week we read about the Microsoft bug in the papers, and understood we had a solution included in our anti-virus and firewall software. I called Microsoft Israel who referred me to the head of the Internet division in the US. That person was on vacation but I was put in touch with the second in command, who thanked me for my interest but told me that Microsoft was managing very nicely without us."
Microsoft has indeed posted a patch for the Internet Explorer security hole, which opens a window warning users of "hostile links." These links, which are controlled and manufactured remotely, can erase important data from users’ hard drives, and cause irreversible damage.
EliaShim developed a "filter" which completely prevents contact with "hostile links" downloaded from the web into the desktop operating system This development, Gruper understood, did not really interest decision makers at Microsoft. "A few days after my first call to Microsoft in the US, one of the company’s developers called me on his own initiative, asking if we’d found any other bugs in their software. I said there were severe security problems with the News and Mail applications, and that we had a solution. He said they were aware of the problem and that it wasn’t very significant."
That tech-person can now read article after article about his mistake, in respected newspapers and websites all over the world. The possibility of wiping out innocent users’ hard drives by remote control using Microsoft Explorer’s News application is a matter of concern for a good many people, who expected more from Microsoft.
Microsoft is now at the height of an overall technological and marketing process, meant to cement its position as the Internet leader. At the heart of this process is eliminating the boundaries between Internet surfing (via Explorer) and personal computer control (using Microsoft’s operating system). Microsoft, whose goal is to meld the two and unify them on the user’s desktop, has apparently not given enough thought to the matter of security and refused help in the bargain.
This is unfortunate from EliaShim’s point of view as the company recently began preparing for an IPO. Its also unfortunate for Bill Gates, and more important, from the point of view of thousands of users who daily choose to use Microsoft’s browser and operating system.
It’s important to point out that, until the recent revelations, Internet Explorer’s automatic operation was considered especially efficient and easy. Microsoft has focused on this aspect in order to improve service, not to harm it. In the end, after it extricates itself from the current crisis, Microsoft will cement its position as the Internet leader. As such, one must demand a bit more responsibility to the customer.