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Microsoft Offers Emergency Security Patch for Its Free Security Program
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REDMOND, Washington - Microsoft Corp., whose popular Windows software is a frequent target for Internet viruses, is offering a free patch to fix security holes detected in its free security program. The program, with monthly updates, was meant to be a step toward plans by Microsoft to sell full-blown anti-virus software later this year. "We expected some problems, of course," admitted Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, "But to get pounded the day after our release, well, we just weren't prepared for that."

"Any time Gates [offers to help], I get nervous."
-- 'LinuxVanPelt', forum poster
Microsoft said Friday that consumers can download the patch and any subsequent patches from the company's Web site Updated versions of the core security program will be offered automatically and free each month. "We had intended to charge for the product eventually, but that's questionable now," explained Ballmer.

Also being offered is a free program to remove "spyware," a category of irritating programs that secretly monitor the activities of Internet users and can cause sluggish computer performance or popup ads. "I have a real problem accepting anti-spyware from a company like Microsoft," said one forum poster using the handle 'LinuxVanPelt', "Any time Gates sidles up close and says, 'Here, let me help you,' I get nervous."

"Our offers of free virus and spyware removal tools are intended to convince consumers that we're working to improve our software's security," said Rich Kaplan, vice president for Microsoft's security business and technology unit, "It's just that sort of attitude that we hoped to change with these products. And even with the security issues we're facing, I believe we can yet instill confidence in the public."

A Symantec executive, Vincent Weafer, said Microsoft's success as an antivirus company at Symantec's expense was not guaranteed. "As you can see, they're walking around with a big bull's-eye painted on their back," he said, "And nobody seriously believes that's going to change. This is an area we certainly think we can differentiate ourselves from Microsoft. We've worked hard over the years to build trust with customers."
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