If it weren’t for that darned Internet, personal computing would be a lot of fun. After all, it’s the Internet that lets all those socially stunted hackers enter our machines, unleashing their viruses, setting up remote hacking tool, feeding us spyware, and otherwise making our lives an endless troubleshooting session. It sure would be nice if they’d cultivate some other hobbies.
In the meantime, these people are doing astronomical damage to businesses and individuals around the world—along the lines of $100 billion a year (the cost to fight viruses, spyware, and spam).
A big part of the problem was the design of Windows XP itself. In the quaint old fashioned days of 2000, when XP was designed, these sorts of Internet attacks were far less common. Microsoft left open a number of back doors that were intended for convenience (for example, to let system administrators communicate with your PC from across the network) but wound up being exploited by hackers.
Finally, in the fall of 2004, Microsoft released Service Pack 2 (SP2), a gigantic, multimegabyte bundle of patches, fixes, and security reinforcements designed to make it increasingly difficult for the bad guys to do their thing. The company devoted enormous amounts of time and resources to this project, so much that the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, was delayed by nearly a year.
Today, every new Windows computer comes with Service Pack 2 preinstalled. If you have ...