Monday, October 09, 2006

Rattling the Cage

On Sunday the BBC ran a story (first in a series) documenting how risky it is to run MS Windows on a computer connected to the Internet.

Simulating an unprotected MS Windows Home machine being connected to the Internet, BBC researchers found it was hit by a potential security threat within seconds, with assaults of one kind on another coming an average of every 15 minutes, and with serious hijack attempts coming every hour or so, from machines as far away as China. They ask:

"If every hour a burglar turned up at your house and rattled the locks on the doors and windows to see if he could get in, you might consider moving to a safer neighbourhood."

Of course, we now take for granted the need to add layers of security programs, and constantly monitor MS Windows computers in our Internet labs for security breaches.

Libraries continue to use Windows computers in labs because patrons are familiar with them and we often have to follow computer policies drafted by IT groups more in tune with the needs of office workers. But Linux is safer by design, and far easier to lock down than MS Windows (Vista or beyond) will ever be.

For years now it has been obvious that diskless computers running LiveCD Linux distros provide the safest and easiest to maintain Internet lab setup.

The new mantra is "The customer is not broken", but it doesn't mean the customer is always right. Sometimes they just don't know what's out there. We wouldn't hesitate to offer a patron a better, more reliable reference source than one they asked for by name. How is that different from offering a better, more reliable public computing platform?

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