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Early-rising news junkies may have noticed a curious wave of 'WinXP beefs up PC security' stories creeping across the web, and no doubt spreading into the public prints. They may also have noted how curiously similar they are; but as Reuters, the source, doesn't figure on our good friend Mark Murray's list of "timed" XP story partners, we must presume the stories' appearance is entirely coincidental, no matter how helpful its message is to Microsoft on this, the big day.

The story itself covers XP's built-in Internet Connection Firewall (ICF), which has been known about for quite some while, and therefore is not what you'd call a news story as far as the specialist IT press is concerned. Or indeed as far as news in general is concerned, but the hook for the Reuters piece is that old standby, "analysts say." If analysts can be induced to comment (phone them up, kid) on something that is no longer news, then voila, it's news again, and timely as well, given the date.

For what it's worth, the analysts say ICF is probably pretty handy for home users, but that corporate customers will likely stay with separate products. So what happens next? Well, once Reuters has done the story the outfits that license Reuters news stories can pick it up and publish it.

Under these circumstances the story itself frequently/usually goes up verbatim, but the sub editors will give it a scan, figure out its punchiest points, and try to get that in the headline. So you can see how this sort of thing can make a spinmeister deeply happy, at very little expense - get the right rock into the right pool, and the ripples roll everywhere. Wire service stories aren't generally given a great deal of focus by the editorial hierarchy either, so the chances of somebody stepping in and saying, 'Is this news?' are minimised.

In this particular case, we've a couple of samples for you. We have:
Windows XP includes beefed-up security
Windows XP includes security add-ons
Microsoft beefs up security in Windows XP

All good stuff, and all perfectly above board. Everybody's doing their job, and the message Microsoft wants to get over, gets over. It's just the way things work, OK?

But we know what you still want to know, now you've read all these - is ICF actually any good? The Reg has yet to point the sometimes sinister Thomas C Greene at it looking for holes, but it does appear that ICF has some utility. It's a one-way firewall which blocks traffic from outside, so it'll be a godsend for newbies happily connecting their XP PCs to DSL. It doesn't block outgoings, so if you get a trojan you're still in trouble. It'll also make you more likely to get into trouble if you fall for spin that implies you're invulnerable with XP, so now you don't have to care.

There's a pretty good run-down of it here, if you'd like to find out more. ®

Related Stories:
Leaked MS email reveals WinXP, Xbox launch spin plans

SANS - Survey on application security programs

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