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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You don't understand the problem
by grandmasterphp on Mon 15th May 2017 17:51 UTC
grandmasterphp
Member since:
2017-05-15

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

Reply Score: 12

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

grandmasterphp,

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.


I know what you mean, it's not uncommon in corporate scenarios to have to wait on all the suppliers before upgrading, and the fact of the matter is microsoft is just one of many suppliers (not necessarily even the most important one at that). All these pieces have to work together...sometimes this requires contracts, a new scope of work, training, testing, scheduled downtime, etc, it's not always as simple as an outsider makes it out to be like updates on their home computer.


Also, welcome to osnews!

Reply Parent Score: 2

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

The NHS has no money to update these systems to newer versions of Windows.


You are kneejerking without reading the actual article. I didn't blame the NHS (or its hospitals and workers), but the government that funds it.

Is it really Microsoft's fault if the British government underfunds its healthcare service?

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.


Again - I don't think you actually read the article, but just immediately got defensive. I did not say anyone was lazy - just that yes, if you choose not to fund your IT department adequately, then yes, YOU are to blame for an inadequately funded IT department, and the resulting consequences. In the case of companies, that's the manager allocating funds - and in the case of the NHS, it's the government.

Reply Parent Score: 2

grandmasterphp Member since:
2017-05-15

You are kneejerking without reading the actual article.


No I am not.

I didn't blame the NHS (or its hospitals and workers), but the government that funds it.


I know you aren't. The situation was created by the previous Government by the access to health program that was poorly implemented. Lots of IT investment, no real plan.

I used to work in this environment, as a 2nd/3rd tier support tech back in 2007-2009, supporting one of these applications.

What I think you are doing is massively over simplifying the situation. The NHS is split into Trusts, these all work differently and get funded differently based on size and lots of other factors. Then referrals can be transferred to private clinics / hospitals etc.

These all have bespoke systems you can't just upgrade stuff. It has to go through a proper change management process and this can take years.

Even things like printers having the margins a bit wrong on the windows settings can be problem when printing patient notes to hang on the end of the bed (I forget the proper term now).

Is it really Microsoft's fault if the British government underfunds its healthcare service?


No. I never said it was. I think the problem exists because the previous labour government didn't have any proper plan for IT and just stuck money into it.

Again - I don't think you actually read the aricle, but just immediately got defensive.


I wasn't being defensive. That wasn't my intention. I just don't think you understand that it is really nobody's fault. I've worked in one of these IT suppliers and everyone was stressed out trying between support / development and deployment.

I did not say anyone was lazy - just that yes, if you choose not to fund your IT department adequately, then yes, YOU are to blame for an inadequately funded IT department, and the resulting consequences. In the case of companies, that's the manager allocating funds - and in the case of the NHS, it's the government.


It not a problem that can just be solved by chucking money at it.

I don't think you really understood what I was getting at. You are massively over simplifying the situation. The reason why these systems aren't updated as often is due to a multitude of reasons. Some of these I highlighted in my original post. Sometimes there is noway to update them.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Chrispynutt Member since:
2012-03-14

As much as I dislike the current goverment. There was a deal in place for extended XP support. However the trusts didn't take it up http://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/16/wannacrypt_microsoft_blame_...

Now thats if you believe El Reg.

Also I agree with the analysis of our current gov's approach to destroying the NHS.

Reply Parent Score: 2