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05.09.09

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (Windows Shop) Gets Cracked Again

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 6:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Corollary: People may start caring about computer security not when businesses become less productive but when disaster eventually strikes

WE’VE already shown that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is relying on a great deal of Windows [1, 2], so it’s not surprising to find it getting cracked again. From the news:

i. FAA admits problems with hackers

According to CNET, the US Federal Aviation Administration has admitted that hackers have broken into the air traffic control mission-support systems several times in recent years. In one case they managed to become ‘insiders’ to the network.

ii. Report: Hackers broke into FAA air traffic control systems

Hackers have broken into the air traffic control mission-support systems of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration several times in recent years, according to an Inspector General report sent to the FAA this week.

Also in the news in recent days:

i. Researchers Release Bootkit Code Targeting Windows 7

Dubbed Vbootkit 2.0, the software was first presented by researchers Vipin Kumar and Nitin Kumar at the Hack In The Box security conference in Dubai in April. At the conference, the two researchers demonstrated how attackers could circumvent security features implemented in the kernel and gain control over Windows 7 (x64).

ii. Microsoft to patch ‘critical’ PowerPoint hole

Microsoft plans to patch a hole in its PowerPoint presentation program, the company said in an advanced bulletin that was notable because it contained only a single update.

iii. Botnet master hits the kill switch, takes down 100,000 PCs

Those behind the Zeus botnet recently decided to press the big red button, bluescreening 100,000 computers around the globe. Security experts aren’t sure why yet, although they have some ideas.

iv. Windows and Viruses – Made for each other

This is the screenshot of the cnet’s download.com which shows the most popular downloads for windows. The first five positions are taken by anti-virus software :-). Sadly there is no ‘Linux’ download section but ‘Mac’ has a place.

v. Microsoft ‘fixes’ its malware problem

Computerworld has an Microsoft WGA/WAT spokesman quoted as saying: “When we went out and talked to customers, we found that activation was the concept that resonated most strongly with them”.

The quote ends there, but may have ended: “…Like memories of the first time they were kicked in the groin.”

In any case, Microsoft’s draconian licensing enforcement ‘technology’ is malware by its own definition. And it’s forced on the user through EULAs of questionable legality.

There is no advantage to it for the user, only advantages for Microsoft. And renaming it won’t make it more attractive to users or any more palatable.

Maybe someday, smart users will stop buying software products that have a built-in remote off switch.

Name changes never resolve problems, except for perceptual problems.

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6 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    May 9, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Gravatar

    Keep in mind, the FAA knows better and has experienced at least one Windows- based shutdown of the World’s eighth largest economy:

    http://www.techworld.com/opsys/news/index.cfm?newsid=2275

    http://www.securityfocus.com/news/9729

    http://www.ccsce.com/pdf/Numbers_CA_Rank.pdf

    FWIW, California is ranked just behind Italy.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, it’s a Windows problem.

    The Los Angeles Times reported that the outage was the result of a worker neglecting to perform a monthly reset of a Windows-based control system, resulting in its automatic shutdown after 49.7 days of operation. A backup system also failed.

    Microsoft server crash nearly causes 800-plane pile-up

    twitter Reply:

    The FAA has made some tennative moves away from M$, but apparently has not made the jump to sanity. In 2006, they moved some servers to Red Hat. In 2007 they said no to Vista and considered dumping Windows completely for GNU/Linux. The FAA’s CIO, David Bowen, was quoted at the time about “business case” and problems with compatibility and continued availability of XP rather than security and freedom. He mentions security here but OS is not part of the discussion. A sane discussion would be about getting Windows out of airports entirely because a single compromised machine can do a lot of damage. Every airport I visit has M$ junk prominently placed, often with big error messages displayed instead of information. The FAA has the authority to fix this and should.

    When reading these stories, it is difficult to know if the incompetence comes from the reporter or the FAA. Bowen’s background is in economics and business which is decried, somewhat unfairly here. An older CV is published here. No mention of computing languages or development is made, which may be why it has taken him so long to see the value of free software despite managing so many computers over the last 25 years. He has a guilty hand in the health care mess, having come from Blue Shield. Still, we know how well managed most of the press is when it comes to M$ trash. It is no more surprising to find smears against anyone in power who considers moving to GNU/Linux than it is to find complete incompetents in power. At this point, competent people not only realize what a security disaster Windows is, they realize how it is designed to never properly interact with other systems. Competent people do what Lowes did, they migrate completely away and do so at once. Bowes has indicated he thinks this way, but it is impossible to tell through the reporting that I have found.

  2. ricardo nunes said,

    May 9, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Gravatar

    OSOR – The Swiss company Skysoft has started development of Albatross, a set of open source applications for air traffic controllers. The project’s website was unveiled on 16 March.

    The software will be published under a GNU Public Licence. The company has not yet decided which version of the GPL will be used.
    http://www.osor.eu/news/company-opens-development-airport-traffic-management-software

  3. Al said,

    May 12, 2009 at 1:54 am

    Gravatar

    It is the incompetence of the security and administration that causes theese problems everys single time. And you people think running open source is a good idea for these morons?? If they can not properly administer a Windows environment how the hell do you expect them to to deal with Linux or Unix??? Please tell me?? So the Windows bashing may be all well and good but let’s get the facts strait in any one of the cases like this you had incompetent people as the cause.. When a competent staff and sound policy is in place Windows is just as secure as Linux! Is it much more expensive? Yes … Does it offer the freedom? No…. But do not blame Windows for complete incompetence!!!!

    Hey we are talking about government here so incompetence is a given!!!

    Think about it the FAA is bueracracy and the follow the government model…

    Spend way more than neccessary… Hire any moron that is related or a friend the let them give their moron friends and relatives jobs… Next pay them entirely to much for doing far to little … After that let them take off whenever they want, throw in double time and a half holiday pay for every holiday possible…. Then when it goes wrong blame the taxypayers and corporations!!!

    Yet so many seem to embrace this idea shouting while they rob us blind knowing our taxes are going sky high in the future no matter what you make and yet we shout YES WE CAN…

    Give in to the Obama/Gates (General Electric,NBC,Microsoft) connection….

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    NBC ‘news’ is a wholly separate issue. :-)

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