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.
I have to disagree with the car analogy. When I buy a car, sure I do consider tires and such as things I have to get. But there are two key things here.
#1 Microsoft didn’t make the tires or oil.
#2 I can get those parts from others. I don’t have to go to Microsoft to get them.
Automotive manufacturers have to make sure their vehicle is safe after they make it, even years after they stopped support. This mechanism fails, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to issue a recall on it. And no, they don’t charge for it either.
So, while your car analogy is close, it doesn’t fit this model. Or maybe it does, but you are addressing the wrong part of it. Microsoft should be making the patch available as a security and safety mechanism for all of it’s customers, just as car manufacturers do.
As an aside, I’m not a Windows user. MacOS, Fedora, and Haiku at home, thanks.
Edited 2017-05-15 16:41 UTC