If last week's BlkSoD (Black Screen of Death) FUD-fest has taught us anything, it's that there are a lot of Windows users out there who view both Microsoft and the whole Patch Tuesday/Automatic Update mechanism with a great deal of suspicion. It seems that when PCs go wrong, people are quick to point the finger of blame at Microsoft and any updates sent their way down the Automatic Update pipes.
Before I go any further, let me clarify a couple of points. First, trust is earned, and Microsoft hasn't always been trustworthy when it comes to Windows Updates, such as the incident where it labeled a Windows Genuine Advantage update as a critical patch. That was naughty and it's the sort of thing that makes people suspicious of Microsoft and causes then to turn off updates. Secondly, there are documented cases where Windows Updates have been harmful to systems and caused people problems.
Given the history, it's no wonder that the BlkSoD story gained as much traction as it did. After all, how many "Average Joe" PC users who came across the story had the expertise, knowledge and skill to realize that the story what pure bunk and based on a half-witted blog post written by a security firm most people had never heard of?
While I don't blame the general public for being alarmed, I do blame many of the tech pundits who covered the story. These people should have had the expertise, knowledge and skill (or access to people who did) to make a better judgement call. A lot of the coverage was, frankly appalling and merely a rehash of the original blog post. Those concerned really should have known better (perhaps it was the effects of too much tryptophan, or maybe the news dry spell following Thanksgiving). Spreading alarmist security news that turns out to be nonsense has a long-term negative effect.
Bad news spreads faster than good news too, so the original FUD-filled story spread much faster and wider than subsequent stories which attempted to set the record straight. To make matters worse, many outlets that ran the FUD story were slow in correcting the story or posting retractions.
Even now, days after the story has been uncovered as nonsense, I'm still getting a decent load of emails from people wanting to know more about the problem. There are also a small number of entrenched fanatics who still maintain that BlkSoD exists and that it is caused by one of the updates released in November by Microsoft. When challenged for details, specifics or proof, most resort to the text equivalent of hand-waving. Proof, we don't need no stinkin' proof!
Applying critical updates to PCs promptly is good, sensible advice. Problem is that the erosion of trust is making people wary of installing updates. We (tech pundits, techies, geeks and Microsoft) need to do our best to encourage users to install patches - for the good of everyone.