Waledac gets whacked, Linux gets valued

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Microsoft is not getting the credit it deserves for winning a court order to take down the Waledac botnet.

It went to court, provided compelling evidence to the judge, took action on the ruling it received and told promptly told the world what it had done.

It wasn't just the court case. The full details of how Microsoft martialled a global team of independent, top rank security experts to help it take action, is brilliantly told here, by my colleague Jeremy Kirk.

Of course, Microsoft was acting in its own best interests, by acting in the interests of its customers, and it wanted to gain some kudos for its action. But it is not just Microsoft customers that benefit from a reduction in the amount of span clogging the internet. Every business and every individual does, which is why it deserves a pat on the back.

People who say botnets only thrive on Microsoft’s buggy code, and there are many, miss the point. As Windows becomes more secure, the hackers look for other vectors to carry their malware – as the latest IBM annual X-Force Trend and Risk Report shows. That is why we need more coordinated action against hackers, involving software suppliers, web hosters, the law and even campaigners against restrictions on web access.

The transparent way in which Microsoft acted will help that happen. Instead taking unilateral or secret action – something for which Microsoft is regularly criticised– it said clearly what it had done and why.

Some have even misguidedly claimed that Microsoft's action is a threat to web freedom, but there are more pressing threats to web freedom than Microsoft’s actions this week. ComputerworldUK blogger Glyn Moody’s warnings about some of the things going on with ACTA, the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, particularly the secrecy surrounding it and its threat to free software, are a case in point.

Talking of free software, two Spanish academics have estimated the value of the Linux kernel at 1billion Euro.

They used an algorithm often used to estimate the cost of traditional commercial software projects and calculated that it would take almost 1,000 developers 14 years to recreate the open source operating system. The “value” is based on paying the developers an average salary of just over €31,000.

You could argue about the figure – though we are talking about the value of the kernel, not what is built on it. You can also argue about the methodology, but for those who want metrics with everything, it is a good starting point.

There are those that don’t want metrics with everything, those that don’t live and die by the business school cliché, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. For them the Linux kernel is proof that you can create something of enormous benefit without formal valuations and without formal business school management techniques either.

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