Editor's Note

Providing Added Security -- at a Price

Patrick on the new XP patch.

The good news is that the much needed security service pack for Windows XP has just hit the streets as I write this. The bad news is, it's much needed.

The patch has several implications for developers. For example, some Windows XP functions will break certain kinds of applications, especially Web applications that rely on ActiveX controls. Microsoft did a lot of testing prior to the release of this patch, attempting to minimize its impact in that regard (one of the reasons the service pack's release was delayed), but the blunt truth is that a safe and secure computing environment should trump everything else.

Service Pack 2 (SP2) is a significant release, and we will be covering its impact on developers in the near future, including what it means to existing applications and future applications you create. The need for this service pack is partly a matter of Microsoft being a victim of its own success, and partly a matter of Microsoft having to deal with an issue of its own making. It's a victim of its own success in the sense that it so dominates the desktop market that it is an obvious target for hackers. Access to the underlying Windows system is access to the data and applications on computers in most of the world's homes, including sensitive financial information. In that sense, Windows is an inviting target.

It's an issue of Microsoft's own making in the sense that Microsoft encourages you to use Windows to run applications that serve your needs, both important and trivial. It wants you to use such services as online banking and other consumer-oriented services from your PC. (I'll be honest: I want to use such services from my PC, too.) But making these services available also means that Microsoft needs to create as secure an environment for you to use these services as it possibly can. Windows XP has been a runaway success in terms of use and ease of use, but secure it isn't. It is far too easy for even experienced computer users and computer professionals to contract malicious viruses, much less non-experienced users.

SP2 corrects many of the vulnerabilities, but does so in a way that will cause some apps to cease to function properly. I don't see this as a bad thing, either. I don't want features that compromise the privacy or health of the data on my computer.

About the Author

Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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