A friend bought a new laptop that runs the Windows Vista operating system.
She told me she loved the experience and the convenience of all the new features, but she also grumbled about how many security warnings she received:
"It's like it won't let me do anything without first asking me if I really want to do it."
Security is about making choices. Online criminals get more sophisticated every day, and even those of us who are technically savvy can benefit from continuing to ask ourselves:
Do I really want to click that link? Visit that Web site? Enter my personal information into that pop-up window?
Windows Vista is designed to give you control of the answers to those questions and to give you the resources to help keep your computer, your personal information, and your family safer.
Security is about making choices, for software developers, too: Create an operating system that is too secure and you might have trouble doing what you want to do. Make features easier to use and your computer might be exposed to more attacks. Finding the right balance is just not easy.
In January Jim Allchin, (now retired) former Co-President, Platforms & Services Division, wrote an excellent and insightful blog entry on some of the trade-offs that the Windows Vista team made in order to balance security and convenience in the newest Windows operating system.
If you’re wondering why you have to read so many security warnings, it might be worth a look. Read the Windows Vista team blog: Security vs. Convenience.
I don't buy this argument: "security is about making choices". Security is about keeping people (and their data) safe. In a perfect world, we'd do this transparently, without needing to bother people with any choices - especially choices they may not understand, may not even want to understand.
Of course, the world isn't perfect, and sometimes the best thing we can do is offer choices - but we really shouldn't consider that the 'end state' of security work. Its just a sometimes-necessary stop along the way to security nirvana.