Comments on NetWinder "insecurity"
Posted on March 28, 2002

Very recently, a number of NetWinder owners have received a FAX and/or email from a company called "M4 Technologies", who claim that the NetWinder is not secure and that they offer a "replacement" for the firewall to make it secure. The following is my explanation of the situation.

First off, M4 Technologies is a new company formed by none other than Mac Brown, the former CEO of Rebel.com. This should explain how M4 came to know the names of all the NetWinder customers. The rights to Rebel's customer list belong to the new NetWinder Inc company, of course, and not to M4 Technologies. (The customer list in question is that collected on www.netwinder.net, and not the list of developers that I maintain).

As for the claims about the security of the NetWinder, it should be remembered that the product has not seen any formal development since the bankruptcy. As with other computer systems, constant vigilance is necessary to keep software up-to-date. The NetWinder's auto-update feature makes this easy for the end user.

M4 proposes an external firewall/router device be placed in front of the NetWinder, to "fix" the security problems. This is a band-aid solution at best, since their firewall/router cannot be upgraded, and therefore is doomed to the scrap heap in short time. It also duplicates hardware already present in the NetWinder, and offers no facility for end-users to modify or upgrade.

The actual solution is to update the NetWinder's software, if necessary, to fix any security problems. Rebel had an ongoing process for releasing software updates, and the new NetWinder Inc company intends to continue on, from what I have been told. As well, the development community on the www.netwinder.org site is alive and constantly working on the NetWinder product, including security updates.

It is sad to see such an obvious ploy to fool customers and make a quick buck. While I might expect this from a competitor such as Cobalt, it is truly disheartening that it comes from none other than the former CEO's new company. So much for ethics and professional honour...


Some quick web searches turn up some intersting facts about the NetScreen device that M4 is touting:


Ralph Siemsen / ralphs@netwinder.org