Security Risks of Monoculture

A take on why it may be bad for all to use the same thing. It's a little like why some suggest bananas are at risk of extinction - there's little variation between them, and they are all succeptable to a single parasite.

I can certainly testify to this. For years - ever since 1997 or so - I've been using Netscape Mail to read and write my emails (current version is Netscape 4.75). I've consistently resisted using Microsoft Outlook, for two reasons: (a) I don't like the look and feel of Outlook (certainly not the ones I tried in 1998 and 2000); and (b) I consider MS Outlook a security risk.

Well, my fears for the latter have certainly been borne out. There have been virus after virus targetted at MS Outlook flaws, especially the one that causes programs to run when you view an email.

However, as far as I know, I've not been infected by a single e-mail borne virus while using Netscape Mail. None of the Microsoft Outlook flaws affect me. I've received many potentially infectious emails (I still receive a few every month) but I do not get infected by them.

I also do not read suspicious looking emails whilst online nor do I open dodgy attachments.

Of course, I am not suggesting that Netscape Mail 4.75 is inherently more secure than Outlook. In fact, I'm quite positive that there may be some sort of vulnerability in there (there's one from 1998 that should have been fixed by ver 4.7), but because so very few people use Netscape Mail, it isn't a popular target for virus writers. I may change my mind once the hordes of people out there read this article and decide to switch to Netscape Mail... ;)

Anyway, if you are looking for Netscape 4.75, I'm not sure you can so easily find the binaries for that anymore, and it has now been superseeded by Mozilla Thunderbird.
posted on Tuesday, November 04, 2003 - permalink
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