Windows 7 Security Bug Emerges at Worst Time for Microsoft

News Analysis: Microsoft's Windows 7 is experiencing a well-publicized security problem that reportedly affects a release candidate. The software giant contends that the security bug doesn't affect the production version of Windows 7 that the company is releasing to PC manufacturers, consumers and retail store shelves. It's time for Microsoft to focus on building customer confidence that the shipping version will truly be more secure than earlier Windows editions.

In what could be a major issue for Microsoft as it prepares for the release of Windows 7 next month, the company announced that it has found a bug that could hijack PCs running Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7.

Security researchers found that the issue affects the Windows 7 Release Candidate. However, the company was quick to assert that it has found that the bug won't harm Windows 7 RTM-the version on its way to store shelves.
"An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could take complete control of an affected system," a Microsoft advisory said. "Most attempts to exploit this vulnerability will cause an affected system to stop responding and restart."

Although it's nice to hear that the Windows 7 versions that will be shipping to store shelves won't face this problem, it underlies a major issue that Microsoft might need to face going forward: security issues, no matter the type or potential harm, could severely impact Microsoft's ability to attract consumers and especially the enterprise to the company's new operating system. At this point, a security issue that makes buyers think twice about Windows 7 could be a real hindrance to Microsoft as it tries to rebuild its operating system's standing in the marketplace.
When Windows Vista was released, the enterprise and consumers had high hopes for the operating system. Microsoft promised that it would be the most secure operating system it had ever released. Some companies bit the bait and immediately updated their hardware with Windows Vista.

In many cases, those same companies found it to be a mistake. Windows Vista didn't have the kind of security companies required. Almost immediately, outbreaks started occurring as Microsoft scrambled to patch them. Meanwhile, all those companies using Windows XP were delighted that they had opted to stick with Microsoft's old operating system. Over time, Vista's security was improved. But the damage was done.
That damage still lingers in the minds of many IT managers and consumers. They're not convinced that Microsoft's new operating system is really as secure as Microsoft says. The software giant claims that Windows 7 will provide at least the same security as Windows Vista and over time, it will only get better. Companies and consumers, Microsoft contends, will not need to fear that Windows 7 will be less secure than its predecessors.
For a while, Microsoft likely had some of those people convinced. Security has barely even made its way into the discourse surrounding the operating system. Microsoft had played all the right moves. First, it allowed users to download Windows 7 to try it out for themselves.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...