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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But you understood me correctly the first time. It's true that software engineers, the people who code for a living, almost always want more time and resources during the development process, but they still don't want the fruits of their labors treated as products, with all of the legal ramifications that entails. They don't want to have to revisit old code and make fixes years later.

Software engineers don't get to make any of those choices, who says we'd be against it? It could benefit more qualified engineers and create incentives to become more qualified. But none of this is decided by us, it's all decided on by management, executives and lawyers. To be clear, if you held the software engineers accountable without holding management or CEOs accountable you'd end up with a large number of scape goats being blamed without any authority or power to change things at the company.

Like the wells fargo fiasco:

I've been involved in projects where code was released with some known vulnerabilities over my objections. If those had been publicly exploited, you would probably blame the software engineers for it, however you would not be privy to the facts of what actually happened, and that it was a managerial decision to consider those things out of scope (another way of saying "unfunded"). I'm for accountability, but you've got to make the whole company accountable and not just those working on the software - many of us aren't in any position to demand changes from our employers.

Most software engineers are pretty clueless about security. Most software companies don't want to invest in training or to hire enough senior software engineers with a specialty in security.

I agree, but I'd go even further and say this low investment and appreciation for security skills is quite discouraging even for those of us who have those skills.

Edited 2017-05-18 21:33 UTC

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