No Microsoft, General Taxation Is Not the Answer to Malware

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.

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Image courtesy of Jacreative on Flickr.

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