The dark ages of IT is here and now

If only. If only the world was sprinkled with fairy dust, leprechauns did exist and we lived in a land of software without bugs. Ah, sweet fantasy.

We could regale our grandchildren with tales from the dark past when operating systems, middleware and applications were plagued by nasty vulnerabilities. Their laughter would fill the room as they guffawed and gave an incredulous scoff: "Don't be silly gran, nobody would spend billions of dollars buying stuff that's broken." And we would sigh remembering those tortured times when IT departments spent hundreds of hours a week patching flaws and wrestling with design weaknesses. If only.

In the real world of IT, flawed products are the norm and even after more than 30 years little progress has been made. Incredibly, it is getting worse. Downtime caused by vulnerabilities is increasing every year and according to Gartner will continue to rise through to 2008. The dark ages of IT is here and now.

While virus numbers increase in double digits, the number of vulnerabilities that have emerged in the past decade have shot up into triple digits. And this is largely because vendors are always keen to profit from new products without paying adequate attention to long-term quality issues.

Microsoft's trusted computing initiative provides a smidgen of hope but when it comes to reporting bugs, users claim it is best not to hold your breath waiting for a fix. It sometimes gets filed in the bin. The more cynical users claim they are trained not to call tech support without a credit card firmly in hand. Ouch!

But if you think it cannot get any worse, try this one on for size. Sure there is always debate surrounding security disclosure - the dreaded question of when to publish and when not to publish - but an ugly new twist has emerged. Vendors are now threatening to sue anyone who dares to publish details about vulnerabilities in their products. A recent example is Sybase which threatened to sue Next Generation Security Software for disclosing a batch of flaws in its Adaptive Server. The security research firm was dutifully gagged and don't be fooled into thinking this litigious lunacy couldn't be extended to customers.

Access to information is one of the few defences IT professionals have to arm themselves against dodgy products. In these pages we try to provide IT managers with the product information and roadmaps they need to make the right purchasing decisions and that includes details of vulnerabilities you should know about.

The world of IT may be lacking in fairies but Computerworld is trying to make it a tad prettier. Readers may have noticed a few changes to the magazine in the last two issues most notably the introduction of a number of new sections.

The new Careers page, which is positioned at the back of the book on page 28, cherrypicks some of the best IT jobs providing readers with a little more detail about positions on offer. It is also a roundup of the industry's biggest movers and shakers covering the latest appointments of our more prominent CIOs.

On the tail end of our news pages is ProductWatch which features the latest gadgets and gizmos that are of interest to readers. Computerworld is your voice and aims to help you do your job better, so feedback on any changes is always welcome. Send e-mails to sandra_rossi@idg.com.au

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