Microsoft decision puts public libraries at risk

Yardena arar By Yardena Arar

Millions of Americans depend on libraries, Internet cafés, and other public locations for their connection to the Internet, and keeping these points of access safe from hackers is especially difficult.

Recently, however, Microsoft has made that challenge even more difficult for many public libraries.

The company announced it would not upgrade the free application, SteadyState, to Windows 7 compatibility, angering many of the folks who manage public-access PCs. People who manage library PCs say they don’t have money to pay for third-party products that protect public PCs from malware and malicious users.

People who manage public computers face daunting security and anti-malware threats. Microsoft acknowledged this fact when it introduced Windows SteadyState, an add-on for Windows XP and, later, Vista.

SteadyState essentially resets a computer whenever a user signs off, thus protecting his or her identity and data. It lets administrators restrict how users can interact with the computer — administrators can, for example, block access to programs, Web sites, the Control Panel, and disk drives.

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Yardena Arar

About Yardena Arar

Yardena Arar has written about technology for the New York Times, the Canadian Press, the Associated Press, and the Los Angeles Daily News. She was an editor at PC World magazine from 1996 to 2009, and is now a PC World contributing editor.