Really, Microsoft? A Tax to Fight the Vulnerable Software Epidemic?

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That's it. Microsoft's "Trustworthy Computing" shtick has gone so far over the oxymoronic top that it's just no longer possible to give the company the benefit of the doubt.


If Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Trustworthy Computing Scott Charney had any credibility at all, he lost it yesterday by calling for an Internet usage tax to deal with the ramifications of security vulnerabilities in software.


According to a story on Computerworld by IDG News Service correspondent Robert McMillan, Charney suggested to attendees at the RSA security conference in San Francisco that a health plan to fight computer viruses could be funded through taxation:

"I actually think the health care model ... might be an interesting way to think about the problem," Charney said. With diseases, there are education programs, but there are also social programs to check people for disease and quarantine the sick. This model could work to fight computer viruses, too, he said. When a computer user allows malware to run on his computer, "you're not just accepting it for yourself, you're contaminating everyone around you," he said. "Maybe markets will make it work," Charney said. But an Internet usage tax might be the way to go. "You could say it's a public safety issue and do it with general taxation," he said.

Really, Scott? When you suggested that a tax should be levied to clean up the mess caused by your company and others that market vulnerable software, did you really think we'd all look at each other with nods of agreement, impressed by the brilliance of your epiphany? Didn't you realize that revelation might just backfire on you? A reader who commented on the Computerworld story encapsulated what many of the rest of us are thinking:

The health care analogy seems to have some merit. And the Mayo Clinic is doing some groundbreaking work where doctors get paid for WELLNESS instead of for SERVICES RENDERED. A similar healthy incentive would be created if this new tax were paid by operating system vendors on the basis of how many computers running their operating system were found to be infected!

Many Microsoft haters would love this, confident that Mr. Ballmer will pay through the nose. But Apple and Red Hat and Oracle would find new reasons to be vigilant as well!

It's unfathomable that a company with Microsoft's resources can be so clueless and out of touch. The Computerworld article also stated that according to Microsoft, there are 3.8 million infected botnet computers worldwide. Really? Then how is it that just yesterday, authorities in Spain busted the Mariposa botnet, which infected 12.7 million computers?


Come on. If Microsoft expects to be taken seriously as an enabler of "trustworthy computing," it needs to do a lot more than this to demonstrate trustworthiness. Taxing users who find the software they bought is non-secure is like taxing Toyota owners for finding they have faulty gas pedals.