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Off-Balance Sheet: Is Vista as Secure as the Voices in Bill Gates' Head Say It Is?


Who will be the first to ferret out Vista's vulnerabilities?


Relax, it's only money.

Here in the 'Ville we like to keep things smart, but we also love to laugh. All work and no know how it goes. With that in mind we proudly introduce The "Off-Balance Sheet," a place where Minyans can experience humorous takes on the world of finance, personal stories from our Professors and Minyans and all the other stuff that makes life worth living. So take a break from the flickering ticks and dive in.

Today's release of Vista, Microsoft's new operating system, has computer users across the world atwitter.

Are you excited about the release? Vote here!

Microsoft (MSFT) claims Vista is the most secure operating system the company has ever made. The prospect of fame and recognition among other pasty, lonely, socially awkward, fantasy game-playing, PC-obsessed outcasts for discovering Vista's weaknesses, along with cash rewards of up to $8,000 offered by security companies like iDefense Labs (a subsidiary of VeriSign (VRSN)) to these legions of young men who dream of one day making actual, confirmable physical contact with a woman, is keeping thousands upon thousands of these recluses holed up in their bedrooms, hacking their way through brand-new copies of Vista-along with lots of Mountain Dew, dozens of Godsmack mp3s, and hardcore porn (online, of course) for break time.

Who will be the first to ferret out Vista's vulnerabilities? I hate to disappoint the computing community, but the honor goes to Dr. Clark Hermanson, Deputy Chief of Psychiatry and Behavioral Studies at the Mayo Clinic.

"I find Vista to be extremely vulnerable right now," Dr. Hermanson said in a call this morning. "We see this sort of thing all the time, particularly in cases where performance expectations are elevated to unreachable levels."

I asked Dr. Hermanson about the issues surrounding security-and the root causes behind the lack of it.

"A sense of security can start to degrade for any number of reasons," he began in his soothing, $350 an hour voice. "Fear of abandonment, fear of not being loved, fear of rejection, fear that people will think negatively of you, being dismissed, patronized, laughed at."

The good doctor was making some sense. What with all the message boards and chat rooms bursting at the seams with people trashing Vista, it didn't surprise me one bit that being placed under a microscope and ripped apart by strangers would cause a good deal of anxiety.

"A feeling of being out there on your own also leads to insecurity," Dr. Hermanson continued. "The Oedipal complex, which was explored first by Sigmund Freud, centers on sons going up against fathers for their mothers' affection."

Was he referring to Vista feeling competitive with, or challenged by, Windows XP, five years Vista's senior? And if Windows XP is Vista's father, where were XP's parents while XP was out fathering offspring at five years old?

"Time will determine Vista's future, but in the meantime I'd treat symptoms like these with Risperdal, Seroquel, or a combination of both," Dr. Hermanson said.

I could just picture him sitting there in his softly-lit office, smoking a pipe and stroking his beard. Meanwhile, I was slightly confused about the whole issue, being that Vista is a computer program and I was on the phone with an M.D. who was telling me how he'd medicate a software package.

"Do I get my eight grand now?"

"Wait, let's back up for a second here," I responded. "I'm not the one offering the cash reward for finding Vista's flaws. That's for-"

"What are you, some kind of shyster? I'll sue your ass!" Dr. Hermanson shouted.

"Hold on, you called me. I have nothing to do with-"

"You're the keymaster, aren't you?!? What's the frequency, Kenneth?!? What's the frequency?!?"

Now I was getting spooked. Even though Dr. Hermanson was in Rochester, Minnesota and I was 2000 miles away in New York, I was now sensing a gnawing insecurity in the pit of my stomach.

Just then, I heard a door burst open on the other end of the line, muffled screams, and the sound of someone being knocked to the ground.

"How did you get out of the unit?" a woman asked calmly.

"Take your hands off me!" I heard Dr. Hermanson shriek. "Who is the keymaster?!? Police! Police!"

"Nate, you know you're not allowed out of the unit," the woman said in a soft voice. "And you're certainly not permitted in Dr. Hermanson's office. The doctors are going to take you back to your room now."

"The squirrels have ruined me! Damn the squirrels! Damn them!"

I heard footsteps, then a door closing. The woman with the soft voice got on the line.

"This is Nurse Remini. With whom am I speaking?"

I was highly impressed with her precise grammar.

"This is Justin Rohrlich from Minyanville. I…I thought…I was…was I just speaking to Clark Hermanson, Deputy Director of Psychiatry and Behavioral Studies?"

"No, you were speaking with Nate B., a patient here in our psychiatric unit."

Nurse Remini explained that Nate's last name would have to be kept private for the sake of confidentiality.

"I'm very sorry for any trouble this has caused you."

I accepted her apology and sat down at my desk, where I gently rocked back and forth in my seat and covered my head with aluminum foil to keep the voices out. Is crazy contagious? Apparently so. And that $8,000 is still up for grabs for the first six people who find security flaws in Vista.

So, call iDefense Labs to claim your prize. I'm taking my phone off the hook.
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