Sunday, July 13, 2008

M$ Conspiracy Theory

If you are a ZoneAlarm user, you may not be able to read this today. Micro$oft issued an update this week which turned into a ticking time bomb for ZoneAlarm users. I had been having issues with ZoneAlarm on my primary Windows XP machine. So, about a month ago I uninstalled it, with full intention of reinstalling it shortly. Shortly still hasn't happened. Which, for me, turned out to be a VERY good thing. On Friday, I got an email message from ZoneLabs warning me "Installation of Microsoft Update KB951748 may result in loss of Internet connectivity."

I didn't think anything of it. My husband's copy of ZoneAlarm had expired, and he was having issues reinstalling the new keys. (Sense a theme here?) My son's computer is turned off for the next month while he's away with his grandparents. So, I shrugged it off and figured Micro$oft or ZoneLabs would put out another patch and all would be right with the world.

Then, late this morning, my old Windows XP system lost Internet connectivity. I didn't think much about it at the time, since I was about to go out, and I sometimes have to reboot my router. Then, this afternoon, my husband complained that he couldn't get to the Internet. So, ZoneLab's warnings of gloom and doom, "Microsoft Update KB951748 - Workaround to Sudden Loss of Internet Access Problem", finally did impact my household.

What I find odd is that I thought KB951748 hit Windows XP systems on Tuesday (or Wednesday at the latest). So, why did it take until Sunday for our systems to lose connectivity.

Also, you just gotta love the fact that ZoneLabs sends people an email to tell them that they could lose Internet activity, particularly since the email was sent after the patch was deployed.

Now, here comes the conspiracy theories. Aside from some minor glitches we've had in our household with ZoneAlarm lately, we are True Believers. ZoneAlarm has been the most reliable suite of tools to protect Windows systems from the big bad Internet. One has to wonder if Micro$oft didn't cause this situation on purpose. If you don't have ZoneAlarm, the Micro$oft patch will only help you, not hurt you. On the flip side, maybe the quality issues we've seen the last few months with ZoneAlarm have made the product more of a security hinderance than a security helper. Maybe Micro$oft is trying to tell us something: 'ZoneAlarm should not be trusted. We don't trust it, therefore we won't let you get to the Internet if you are using it.'

And for the final conspiracy theory: Maybe KB951748 is one of those patches from Micro$oft that actually introduces more vulnerabilities than it patches. Maybe THAT's why ZoneAlarm won't let you to the Internet after you've applied the patch.

The solutions offered thus far by ZoneLabs: Lower your Internet Security settings from High to Medium or Uninstall KB951748.

Decisions, decisions, decisions... (Note: My husband lowered his threshold to Medium. I now have two systems with no ZoneAlarm installed... really need to work on that. Maybe I'll back out of KB951748 and reinstall.)

Ultimately, I'd pretty much made my next big decision related to all this. My next Internet-facing computer is going to me a Mac. I'll keep the Windows systems around for the software that I use that only runs on that OS, but I will not be reading email and doing general surfing on those systems. I won't be pulling the trigger on that decision until 2009, unfortunately.

Update: ZoneLabs has come out with a patch to their products that allows them to work with the Microsoft patch. Joy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not commenting on the conspiracy angle; I don't think M$ is together enough to pull that off. But I've talked with lots of folks very happy with Parallels for the Mac (running XP in that VM). I set it up on our one Mac here and it seems to work fine (IE is really the only thing I've tested).