Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Symantec: Crying Wolf on Windows Vista

Symantec is so pissed at Microsoft for competing against it with OneCare, and for reducing the need for their software through the security advances in Vista, that instead of innovating on top of the Vista platform, they've resorted to spreading FUD to keep themselves in the news. Cause in their minds, if they're in the news, they're still relevant.

The first flaw was in the networking stack. Symantec sees the advances in Vista as a problem, because "Microsoft has removed a large body of tried and tested code and replaced it with freshly written code, complete with new corner cases and defects." Hmm, I wonder why Symantec prefers the old code over the new code. It couldn't be that the old networking stack was Symantec's moneypot for the last 7 years. It couldn't be that new code means Symantec researchers have to start from scratct to build their next gen security suite. No, it's gotta be because that code was lightning fast and perfectly suited to take us into the next decade of computing. Yeah, that's it.

Now, it's curious that the article makes itself irrelevant by mentioning that the flaws were in the February CTP (5270) and that they have since been fixed. Symantec even admitted that the flwas weren't there in later builds. So tell me again... what exactly is the problem? Symantec can't use the argument that "because it's new it's insecure", when that's exactly the reasoning Firefox uses to say that it is secure. The industry can't have it both ways.... except of course, if the 'enemy' is Microsoft.

The latest "flaw" stems from a specially crafted ActiveX control that could fool UAC into elevating privileges. Forget the fact that since February, the IE team has disabled ActiveX by default, and forced the user to approve any ActiveX control that is installed. Let's also forget for the moment that the CTP in question was over 4 months and 200 builds ago. Hell, the difference between 5384 (May) and 5472 (July) is enough to make me do cartwheels. Gosh guys, this is a real problem. Quick, someone get me a copy of a Symantec security product... my Vista beta system's not secure!!!

Why is this allowed to be news? Any tech reporter with a teaspoon of brain cells still functioning (hey, the 70's affected a LOT of people) knows that fixed flaws in beta builds from four months ago are not news. That's why it's a BETA, stupid. But see, doesn't just report the news, they try to influence the industry. And nothing stirs up page traffic like a bullshit story between a software company and its former housekeeper.

Look, Symantec... let me level with you. You're done. You're products do nothing but confuse users and slow their systems to a crawl. The only one that is worth anything is your overpriced Ghost package... and even THAT is threatened by Vista's CompletePC. So take a page from McAfee's playbook: shut up and innovate. But something tells me that Symantec will continue to spend more time spreading FUD than writing code. Because those who scream the loudest are usually on their way out.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish my report on the insecurities in Longhorn build 4074. You know, the one they released at PDC 2003. If flaws from four months ago make news, flaws from three years ago must be worth money.

UPDATE: The fact that didn't get my comment for the Vista Views column was apparently because my cell phone was broken, not because of the editors there. So I removed one of my comments in the second and third paragraph.

UPDATE2: Michael Howard has a technical discussion on the big picture of security in Windows Vista on his blog.

UPDATE3: I think I was right...



  • davidacoder said:
    Spot on! This is unbelievable, what a cheap PR trick on Symantec's part. The bad thing is that if they just push out long enough the message "Vista is insecure", it will stick with some people... Shame, shame, shame on Symantec. For selling crap products for years, and now spreading FUD.
    July 25, 2006 5:06 AM
  • Rosyna said:
    I am confused about something. You say "over 200 builds ago". Where does this number come from. I was under the impression the second number comes from the major "trunk". That, is that MS would be working on getting 53nn ready for release at some conference while working on 54nn simultaneously adding in new features while incorporating the changes. That would make the build numbers non-consecutive. Not to mention that the public beta was a .4 build.
    July 25, 2006 9:13 AM
  • Rosyna, I don't believe that is the case, but I could be wrong. Microsoft forks teh code at various times to improve the quality of given builds. That's why some builds have the .X at the end. Now, that may be the reason Microsoft got into the 74s so quickly after Beta 2, but I think the real reason is because they were still doing regular builds while they forked the code for Beta 2, which originally was supposed to be 5481 (which was too unstable). They worked through 5 iterations of 5481 before abandoning that and doing 4 iterations of 5384.

    As of right now, we're already into the early 5480s, and will definitely be into 5500 builds before RC1.
    July 25, 2006 6:20 PM
  • I was looking over the trackbacks for my post on Symantec earlier today, when I came upon this entry...
    July 25, 2006 8:45 PM
  • compugab said:
    Good point.

    In my experience, AVG from Grisoft is the best AV for Vista. It plays nice with UAC (it doesn't prompt) and it doesn't slow down the OS.

    One thing by the way. Build 4074 was WinHEC 2004 build. PDC 03 was 4051.

    You can send me the extra money ;).
    July 25, 2006 9:23 PM
  • TechBlog said:
    Look at all the lovely links! • AOL co-founder and former chairman Steve Case says he's sorry for the merger with Time Warner. Is that all you're going to apologize for, Steve? • Jay Rosen floats an interesting idea:,...
    July 26, 2006 5:26 AM
  • stephcra said:
    Let me say that though Symantec products are junk, McAfee's aren't much better...and the idea that they are "innovating" would be hilarious if not for all the poor saps that use their software.
    I know of what I speak, as I just left McAfee in Beaverton, OR after a little less than a year there (BTW, I also was a blue badge at MS for 5 years and prior to that worked at Symantec, so I suppose my bird's eye view is a good one).
    Symantec may be a joke, but McAfee is not very far behind.
    As an STE working on VirusScan Enterprise, I had to yell and scream for months about Windows Vista compatibility with McAfee apps before anyone decided to listen. By that time it was almost too late.
    No one there had the foggiest idea about Vista or even how to navigate around it. Here's a good example:
    A few months back one of McAfee's large clients, a "huge car company from Germany", was running betas of Vista on hundreds of their client machines in order to prepare for the roll-out. When they would try and install VSE 8.0i onto the machines via a command shell in Vista, they were unable to do so.
    Emails went back and forth between their devs and ours to no avail. Finally, the head of our dev team called them himself and couldn't figure out what the problem was.
    I came across the email at this point and replied back to person at the "huge, German car company", suggesting that they launch the command shell with raised administrative privileges and see if that fixed the problem.
    Next day I get an email back from the person in Germany stating that my suggestion immediately fixed the problem.
    I don't write this to make myself sound great, but more to clarify that McAfee is filled with the same technical and intellectual lightweights that Symantec is. They may just not be so dumb as to try and take on Microsoft in a full-frontal assault.
    Don't even get me started on what it was like trying to explain the process of getting DFW Logo certified...
    July 27, 2006 4:29 AM
  • Symantec has definitely been the target of my wrath as of late, and the time has now come to address
    August 26, 2006 12:47 PM
  • Symantec seems to think that Vista's User Account Control prompts people too much, and wants to make

    January 10, 2007 12:48 PM
  • Symantec: Crying Wolf on Windows Vista - Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

    January 25, 2015 11:29 PM