Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th May 2017 16:18 UTC
Windows

Friday saw the largest global ransomware attack in internet history, and the world did not handle it well. We're only beginning to calculate the damage inflicted by the WannaCry program - in both dollars and lives lost from hospital downtime - but at the same time, we're also calculating blame.

There's a long list of parties responsible, including the criminals, the NSA, and the victims themselves - but the most controversial has been Microsoft itself. The attack exploited a Windows networking protocol to spread within networks, and while Microsoft released a patch nearly two months ago, it’s become painfully clear that patch didn’t reach all users. Microsoft was following the best practices for security and still left hundreds of thousands of computers vulnerable, with dire consequences. Was it good enough?

If you're still running Windows XP today and you do not pay for Microsoft's extended support, the blame for this whole thing rests solely on your shoulders - whether that be an individual still running a Windows XP production machine at home, the IT manager of a company cutting costs, or the Conservative British government purposefully underfunding the NHS with the end goal of having it collapse in on itself because they think the American healthcare model is something to aspire to.

You can pay Microsoft for support, upgrade to a secure version of Windows, or switch to a supported Linux distribution. If any one of those mean you have to fix, upgrade, or rewrite your internal software - well, deal with it, that's an investment you have to make that is part of running your business in a responsible, long-term manner. Let this attack be a lesson.

Nobody bats an eye at the idea of taking maintenance costs into account when you plan on buying a car. Tyres, oil, cleaning, scheduled check-ups, malfunctions - they're all accepted yearly expenses we all take into consideration when we visit the car dealer for either a new or a used car.

Computers are no different - they're not perfect magic boxes that never need any maintenance. Like cars, they must be cared for, maintained, upgraded, and fixed. Sometimes, such expenses are low - an oil change, new windscreen wiper rubbers. Sometimes, they are pretty expensive, such as a full tyre change and wheel alignment. And yes, after a number of years, it will be time to replace that car with a different one because the yearly maintenance costs are too high.

Computers are no different.

So no, Microsoft is not to blame for this attack. They patched this security issue two months ago, and had you been running Windows 7 (later versions were not affected) with automatic updates (as you damn well should) you would've been completely safe. Everyone else still on Windows XP without paying for extended support, or even worse, people who turn automatic updates off who was affected by this attack?

I shed no tears for you. It's your own fault.

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Responsibility
by Alfman on Mon 15th May 2017 17:41 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

Thom Holwerda,

You can pay Microsoft for support, upgrade to a secure version of Windows, or switch to a supported Linux distribution. If any one of those mean you have to fix, upgrade, or rewrite your internal software - well, deal with it, that's an investment you have to make that is part of running your business in a responsible, long-term manner. Let this attack be a lesson.


There's no denying this was very bad for the hospitals and patients affected, but I don't think we have the whole picture here. Many of them may be stuck between a bureaucratic rock and hard place. Their system administrators can't just update systems willy-nilly like another business or home user could. These systems may require certifications and modifications would likely void those certifications.

For it's part, microsoft does not guaranty the suitability of windows or updates for any purpose, things can and sometimes do break. The vendors who certify machines can't realistically certify a windows system with windows updates, it would be prohibitively expensive to re-certify millions of computers every patch Tuesday when they get updates. Clearly some solution is needed, I'm not sure what it would look like. I'd like to hear the perspective of someone who's dealt with these kinds of issues.

However none of this would have likely mattered in this particular case because they were zero day exploits anyways. The NSA is directly to blame for them and the software engineers are to blame for the poor quality of software in the first place. I'm surprised you aren't blaming them (and us) more. Whoever creates these exploits, be it indy hackers or government agencies, these zero-days are a widespread problem. Updates, while important, are inherently a reactive solution. The only way to fix this once and for all is to take a proactive stance and demand safer code from project managers, software engineers, and even computer languages.


There are armies of C coders who will complain that vulnerabilities are the fault of bad programmers and not computer languages, but we can't ignore the fact that unsafe languages semantics have been enabling human mistakes for 40+ years. No language can fully save us from our high level programming mistakes, however they can protect us from many low level mistakes that continue to plague us. If we don't have a plan to replace unsafe languages or at least limit them to areas that can be fully audited and contained, then our software will still continue to be insecure 40+ years from now.

Edited 2017-05-15 17:46 UTC

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