Opinion: Why a Windows Update Outage Makes the News

A similar event wouldn't have been reported in the local news if it had happened in the Linux or Macintosh camps, but a domain-name server problem with Microsoft's Windows Update Web site has, for some reason, hit the radar of the mainstream media. If there's a lesson to be learned here, it has nothing to do with technology. Instead, I think it's high time that Microsoft's marketing people get on the phone and do some damage control. If you see the name Microsoft in a news story these days, the story is often full of dire warnings and dread. And this trend needs to stop, especially when the warnings are unwarranted.

Here's the story: Users manually attempting to access Windows Update from Windows XP during the weekend ran into problems because of a domain-name server outage that didn't correctly load the site. So how does a journalist report such a story? I'll tell you honestly that my initial reaction was to simply ignore it; I don't see this incident as much of a story. However, the Associated Press, the New York Times, and other news agencies did report the story and did so in a way that's designed to scare people who are using or considering XP. And that's not reporting the news--it's making the news.

Here's how the New York Times reported the story: The Times specifically wrapped the outage around last month's Universal Plug and Play (UpnP) security patch, noting that users simply trying to secure their systems were shut out of Windows Update and unable to do so. Microsoft admitted the problem was serious, the report said, yet users couldn't get the patch. Although I don't have the data to prove this, I suspect that the number of people who manually visited Windows Update specifically for this patch was quite small; the vast majority of XP users would have automatically received the patch through Auto Update late last month. And if anyone was frantically attempting to get the patch manually last weekend, it's also available on Microsoft's usual Web site. Security-minded users probably know how to search a manufacturer's Web site.

Here's the truth: If, for some reason, you didn't get the XP security patch weeks ago, fear not. Windows Update is back online. If you're worried that your system might have been left unsecured for a few days, don't. No instances of any XP systems being hacked through the now-fixed UPnP vulnerability have been reported. And if you're tired of the mediocrity of the mainstream media, join the club. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: We have plenty of reasons to dislike or distrust Microsoft. We don't need to invent more reasons..

TAGS: Windows 8
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