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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Pete.H.Dee
Member since:
2017-05-17

Yes - it's your fault in that it was entirely predictable. On the other hand the flaw was Microsoft's.

Today, if the car I own turns out to have a manufacturing/design flaw that's dangerous, the car company will recall and fix it - not tell me I should have bought a support contract or simply tell me to get a new model.

Bottom line software companies, for too long, have been getting away with the idea that any flaws ( no matter how serious ) in the product it sells you - is something the consumer has to simply accept with no redress. Perhaps it needs to be brough more in line with other industries.

Especially as software is becoming more critical.

Bottom line MS had the patch for XP but didn't release it - result people may have died due to delayed treatment in hospitals affected. If a car manufacturer had done that there would have been an outcry.

Yes, from a user perspective it was entirely predictable, but the flaw was Microsoft's responsibility and they had a fix and choose not to release it intially - that's not responsible.

Reply Score: 1

fmaxwell Member since:
2005-11-13

Bottom line software companies, for too long, have been getting away with the idea that any flaws ( no matter how serious ) in the product it sells you - is something the consumer has to simply accept with no redress. Perhaps it needs to be brough more in line with other industries.


That's precisely what they have been avoiding by not selling software. Instead, they sell you a license to use their software and then disclaim any responsibilities for error-free operation, security, suitability for any purpose, etc. If they sold you software, then it would be a product that was subject to all of the same FTC regulations that govern any product.

Software engineers (I used to be one) are quick to proclaim it unfair to require that they produce a reliable, secure product because 'software is so complicated.' I look at it the other way: Software is so complicated because they aren't required to make it reliable and secure. Windows is a bloated, incomprehensible mess (at the source level) precisely because Microsoft is not legally liable for the chaos that results in a case like this. Instead, they reap rewards as companies scramble to update from old versions of Windows to new ones, paying Microsoft for the updates.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

fmaxwell,

Software engineers (I used to be one) are quick to proclaim it unfair to require that they produce a reliable, secure product because 'software is so complicated.' I look at it the other way: Software is so complicated because they aren't required to make it reliable and secure. Windows is a bloated, incomprehensible mess (at the source level) precisely because Microsoft is not legally liable for the chaos that results in a case like this. Instead, they reap rewards as companies scramble to update from old versions of Windows to new ones, paying Microsoft for the updates.


I'd point out that many software developers know more than anybody how broken things are. In many cases if you dig further there's a very good chance developers did bring up the issues before the product reached market. However management creates an environment that isn't conducive to building secure code with unrealistic timelines that omit testing and security auditing and just allocating insufficient resources. The incentives from the top of the company down the chain are to do the minimum amount of work possible.

Meanwhile the CEO is telling customers how important the company takes security, blah blah blah, but it's rarely actually true. If consumers feel they are becoming the beta testers, it is in fact because that's exactly what they've become.

Reply Parent Score: 3