Schneier: Microsoft using security to obstruct rivals

15 October 2003 Microsoft is using security as an excuse to increase secrecy and build barriers to competition, according to security expert Bruce Schneier.

Schneier, a noted cryptographer and co-founder and chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security, was responding to a report suggesting that Microsoft’s desktop ‘monoculture’ represented a security risk.

The report, from the Computer &Communications Industry Association (CCIA), criticised the way that Microsoft had secured its desktop operating system monopoly — by tightly integrating applications with its operating system.


But Schneier says that an operating system monoculture would represent a security risk regardless of whether the monopoly was held by Linux or MacOS. More dangerous, he argues, are the measures that Microsoft is taking in the name of security that will also lock out competitors.

“After the antitrust trial, they refused to divulge file format information and cited security concerns. They’re developing a document security feature for Office programs that will make it harder for competitors to build compatible products,” says Schneier.

Furthermore, Microsoft’s development of the Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), also called Palladium, threatens to heighten the barriers to competition, but will not necessarily solve computer security problems, argues Schneier.

“In economics this is called ‘lock in’: actions by a company to ensure that its customers can’t switch. It’s bad for society and it’s also bad for security,” he says.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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