QUICKBOOKS, IE7 AND COMPUTER SECURITY

Intuit has finally released updates for various versions of Quickbooks to make them more or less compatible with Internet Explorer 7. Here’s the IE7 compatibility chart, with links to the various updates.

This is an odd issue with a long history. For years, Quickbooks has violated many basic rules of computer security and Intuit has been slow to change its design. Here’s a very brief description of the issue.

Windows users are accustomed to running their computers as “administrators,” with full power to change any aspect of the system – installing, running and removing programs, adding or deleting files, and changing the Windows registry. Programs that run while we’re logged in as administrators typically inherit our credentials – any program can do anything, good or bad. To run our computers in a secure way, we should have been logged in with limited privileges, to prevent adware/spyware/viruses from making unannounced changes to our system. This is one of the primary reasons that Linux/Unix users claim that their operating systems are safer to run than Windows. (You’ll hear much more about all this as we start talking about Vista.)

Quickbooks is the most visible example of a program that could not run unless the logged-in user had administrator privileges. We could have been far safer on our computers if we could have logged in with a limited “user” account for the last few years, but Quickbooks couldn’t run that way – along with a lot of other programs. Quickbooks writes entries in a lot of places in the registry that are not accessible by users with limited privileges. Workarounds are clumsy at best and impossible at worst.

Internet Explorer 7 tightens your computer’s security while you’re online – and Quickbooks throws a fit after you install it, because Quickbooks is built in large part on Internet Explorer. Intuit acted as if IE7 was a surprise and the best it could offer for a couple of months was advice to uninstall IE7. Now there’s new updates and I believe this is the current situation.

  • Quickbooks 2003 and earlier will never run with IE7 installed. Intuit’s response: tough. Buy a new version.
  • Quickbooks 2004 has some online features that won’t work, but you can turn off its warning message.
  • Quickbooks 2005 and 2006 will work with the most recent update.

That’s not a great result – there’s a lot of people using Quickbooks 2003 out there – but it’s progress of a sort. There’s an even ruder awakening in store, though.

As things stand, it appears that no version of Quickbooks will run on Windows Vista other than Quickbooks 2007. Even if the program can be made to run, Intuit does not plan to offer support for any version earlier than Quickbooks 2007 running on Vista – a crucial consideration for businesses and bookkeepers.

Intuit is going to be a significant roadblock for some people who might decide not to get the security and new features in Windows Vista because they want to continue using a familiar and trusted version of Quickbooks to run their business. The security problems with Quickbooks are longstanding, and Intuit’s failure to solve them is starting to look irresponsible.