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

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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You don't understand the problem
by grandmasterphp on Mon 15th May 2017 17:51 UTC
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While those that have been running these older OSes at home should have upgraded. Hospitals simply can't just upgrade.

I used to work for a software supplier to the NHS.

The NHS has no money to update these systems to newer versions of Windows. In other some cases it simply can't for a multitude of reasons that I will discuss below.

Also before you blame it on the current government in the UK this problem has been over a decade in the making.

You cannot simply upgrade the OS either on Workstation or Server. Even intranet applications may only work correctly IE or IE in compatibility mode.

There are thousands of bespoke applications than simply either do not have any vendor support, or cannot be upgraded easily. The businesses may have closed shop, but the software is normally tied to how the hospital works, or how it deals with referrals (if it is private) from the NHS.

Sometimes this isn't just a matter of the OS it is matter of the hardware interfaces. There is hardware that needs to work over legacy ports that don't exist on newer equipment needed to run Windows 7 and above. They aren't going to throw away a piece of equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Re-training medical staff to use said systems is costly. Changing the OS will require retraining. I don't just mean retraining in how to use the newer version of Windows or an updated application. There maybe new procedures put in place that are offline.

The machines shouldn't have been exposed to the internet, true. However in some cases they have to because of the access to health / NHS direct that the former labour government forced through without much thought.

Most of the vendors to this applications may have since ceased trading because the investment from the previous labour government simply doesn't exist anymore since the current Conservative Government cut spending drastically.

But your unrealistic expectation that IT departments are too lazy to upgrade shows how little you know the challenges of even getting a minor update into a production environment such as a hospital.

Unfortunately it takes an event like this until management and government will invest in IT. It is rarely the fault of the IT staff on the ground.

Edited 2017-05-15 17:58 UTC

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