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Summary:

Today at the RSA conference in San Francisco, Microsoft Vice President for Trustworthy Computing Scott Charney proposed an Internet usage tax to fight malware infections and the effects of botnets. Do users at large really need to pay for one of Microsoft’s own most costly problems?

Microsoft Vice President for Trustworthy Computing Scott Charney today at the RSA conference in San Francisco proposed an Internet usage tax to fight malware infections and the effects of botnets. But do users at large really need to pay for one of Microsoft’s own most costly problems?

As Computerworld reports, Charney equated his proposal for better “social solutions” to the malware problem with existing models in place in the health care system:

“I actually think the health care model…might be an interesting way to think about the problem. With medical diseases, there are education programs, but there are also social programs to inspect people and quarantine the sick. This model could work to fight computer viruses too.”

Charney proposed that “general taxation” could foot the bill for fighting malware, and discussed inroads being made battling it at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level. In particular, ISPs have been having increasing success at shutting down some botnets, which produce large quantities of globally spread malware and spam. Just recently, Microsoft was successful in shutting down the Waledac botnet, which it did by filing a legal injunction that resulted in a restraining order allowing the shutdown of over 200 allegedly nefarious Internet domains.

Clearly, Microsoft is getting more creative in battling the spread of malware, but let’s not forget that there is self-interest in such creativity, because Microsoft’s own Windows operating system and other tools are the largest targets in the worlds of botnets and malware baddies. As OStatic notes, “Few are likely to be impressed or take seriously a suggestion that a general taxation should be used to fix a problem that Microsoft is more than partly responsible for, especially when the company reaps staggering profits on its Windows licenses in the first place.”  If general taxation is implemented to pay for the costs of fighting malware, do Linux users have to pay the same tax as Windows users?

Charney did suggest numerous creative strategies to fight malware going beyond general taxation, including public education programs and public service announcements. But these suggestions, too, raise questions as to who is going to pay the bills at the end of the day. Hopefully, taxpayers at large won’t get stuck with them.

Related Post on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

As Cloud Computing Goes International, Whose Laws Matter?

Image courtesy of Jacreative on Flickr.

By Sebastian Rupley

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  1. dreamsburnred Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    That’s…stupid.

    The real issue is users who blindly click links/install applications without checking how valid they are.

    Botnets are hard to keep track but if all the world had to pay tax almost all internet users would disappear since Library’s schools/home users could not afford it and businesses would refuse to pay.

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  2. Subhash Bose Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Why the hell should I pay tax for malware .. I dont have any malware spyware or virus on my linux or mac notebook? Who is crazy enough to even listen to this?

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  3. Malware is not a Microsoft problem, it’s an IT problem. If Apple had anything close to Microsoft’s market share, it would have the same problems, except perhaps worse because Windows 7 is generally much more secure than Mac OSX.

    I agree with the perspective of “dreamsburnred” that the problem is people doing stupid stuff. Unfortunately, there will always be people doing stupid stuff, so you have to educate people and give them tools where you can, to not do stupid stuff.

    Here’s one way to stay very safe:
    *Run Windows 7
    *Don’t change the default security settings
    *Don’t install unsigned software, or software signed by an unknown entity

    Ta-dah! Safe.

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    1. Mac OSX is less secure than Windows? You have to be kidding?

      So far, the on;y way to get OSX infected with malware or a virus is through social engineering. Just visiting an infected site is not enough.

      You Windows fanboys need to get your head out of your butt and address the issue and stop spreading fudd. Don’t tell me OSX is only safer because of the installed base. The fact is, the first person to actually get a virus to spread on OSX will be instantly famous making it a prime target. Face it, OSX’s UNIX underpinning is just a better model for security.
      No, nothing is 100% immune but Windows is a nightmare, mainly because it has to be backwards compatible all the way back to 3.1 and DOS. Apple resolved that vulnerability when it went from OS9 to OSX.

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      1. Wow, that post is a museum piece.

        First, outdated thinking: what, people are hacking for fame? That’s very 1995-2000. Blackhats do it for the money, and have for about a decade. Didn’t you notice??

        Second, I noticed that you complimented Microsoft for their customer service (your nod to “backward compatibility”) and simultaneously explained one of many reasons that Apple will never make it in business.

        Third, you’re repeating the clever lies of the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads from Apple: that Apple’s latest OSX is really competing against Windows 98 (circa 1998). Time warp!

        Get with the times, dude.

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  4. Agree, dreamsburned! Most users are extremely stupid.

    Most of my malware infections occurred due to my own stupidity.

    The solutions are extremely simple:

    1. Ensure that your system runs all the latest updates and patches.
    2. Have a decent AV suite and firewall. Scan once a week and watch out for strange processes.
    3. Sensible browsing will cut down a lot of malware.
    4. Do not download cracks, patches and keygens. Though some of them are actually legit, some of them also contain trojans and other nasties:(
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  5. [...] No Microsoft, General Taxation Is Not the Answer to Malware – GigaOM [...]

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