08.09.09

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Journalists Suggest Banning Windows, Maybe Suing Microsoft Over DDoS Attacks

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Security, Vista, Vista 7, Windows at 4:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Baywatch

Summary: Recent DDoS attacks (Windows botnets running amok) affect many people and lead to hard questions

NOW that Facebook and Twitter are under siege by Windows zombies [1, 2] (it’s not over yet), a lot of people are negatively affected, not just taxpayers and hospital patients. Hundreds of millions of zombie PCs are living proof that there is no end in sight, not as long as Windows remains ubiquitous on the desktop.

Over at IDG, SJVN suggests getting rid of Windows. It’s a modest proposal.

I thought that the massive DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks that knocked Twitter and other social networks out was because of Iran’s government trying to shut down its protesters. I was wrong. Hundreds of millions of Internet users were annoyed because of Windows botnet-based DDoS aimed at one (1) person.

According to security company McAfee’s director of security research Dave Marcus, “This was a very targeted attack, and what the research shows is that it was aimed at one particular person, and that person’s accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LiveJournal.” The target is a pro-Georgian blogger, but he’s still just one man.

For some details on that person, here is the New York Times:

The cyberattacks Thursday and Friday on Twitter and other popular Web services disrupted the lives of hundreds of millions of Internet users, but the principal target appeared to be one man: a 34-year-old economics professor from the republic of Georgia.

Also:

That latter link comes from Glyn Moody, a journalist who wrote in Twitter that Twitter was killed “with a Windows botnet, probably. Time to start suing Microsoft, maybe…”

It is a question of liability, but before anyone claims that GNU/Linux would solve nothing, here is a new article worth reading. Code scans do suggest that mature Free software is inherently more secure.

“The fact that any security issue can be seen by thousands of eyes, in fact, makes it easy to find and fix security issues. If you got proprietary software, just because the security vulnerability may not be seen in the open doesn’t make the code more secure,” Kant told LinuxInsider.

Microsoft prepares to bring many more “critical” patches. It never ends, and it’s remotely exploitable. Vista 7 will bring no change to the table. We wrote about this before, e.g. in:

Also see: When Does it Become Appropriate to Take Windows off the Information Highway?

“Two security researchers have developed a new technique that essentially bypasses all of the memory protection safeguards in the Windows Vista operating system…”

Dennis Fisher, August 7th, 2008

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15 Comments

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    August 9, 2009 at 6:48 am

    Gravatar

    Windows and M$ products should have been banned long ago. It’s good that the idea is being broached once again in this new decade, but too little action has been taken since the problems first were discussed last decade.

    The topic of ditching M$ products was more widely discussed back then even though the situation was not as dire as it now is. Many M$ applications serve little purpose other than to lock end-users into the M$ stack and are more often than not little more than security holes masquerading as useful applications.
    It’s not the products gone wrong, it’s the people inside your company pushing these M$ products that have gone wrong. It’s an H.R. problem when company employees push a political agenda that harms or destroys the company’s ability to operate.

    Look at the cost of these incidents. The cost of upgrading every last M$ chump on the planet in the course of 12 months to viable technology can’t exceed more than a tiny fraction of the quarterly damage. M$ communism costs too much to keep around. Withdrawn the corporate charter and dozens of IT companies will take off: Oracle, Sun, Red Hat, to name a few.

    So will just about every company or institution that currently uses either desktop computers, servers or both.

    zatoichi Reply:

    Windows and M$ products should have been banned long ago.

    That’s idiotic. On what basis do you “ban” an entire company’s line of (legal) products?

    It’s good that the idea is being broached once again in this new decade, but too little action has been taken since the problems first were discussed last decade.

    Nobody’s “broaching” this idea, at least not anyone who thinks things through to see whether they, in fact, have anything to do with reality.

    twitter Reply:

    A lot of less damaging “products” have been banned through class lawsuits but economic forces are even more powerful. M$ is in a position similar to but far weaker than US automobile manufacturerers. Reality is calling as M$’s proffits errode in the face of superior competition.

    zatoichi Reply:

    A lot of less damaging “products” have been banned through class lawsuits…

    Name a few, please.

    Generally products are forced off the market because they either represent a danger to life and limb (and I’m not sure how many people you want to claim have died as a direct result of using Microsoft software), or because they make illegal claims about what the product does.

    Have you read the EULA? There’s definitely some language in there (as in most software licenses) about not warranting the software for any particular purpose… Even the GPL contains such language.

    So what are you talking about, Willy?

    Needs Sunlight Reply:

    For the time being it is legal to sell M$ products or even for M$ executives to continue the false claim that they are in the software or software services business. However, that need not be the case in the future and after having been tabled for a few years, it is time for the discussion to continue.

    Even with the current ‘legality’ of M$ products, have you read the EULA? The blame rests squarely on those betraying their positions and promoting or deploying M$ products. Aluminum spanners would be legal, but a shop steward purchasing and, worse yet, deploying said spanners would be sacked. If not sacked the first time, the second or third time would involve needing the help of a proctologist to retrieve said spanners once the floor crew got done with them.

    Oh, did you read the EULA? It may *not* be legal to deploy M$ products in situations where privacy is required. Clinics, hospitals, schools and military bases are out. HIPAA = no Windows.

    Get rid of M$ products and your productivity goes up by 20%: Windows causes spam, Exchange causes lost mail, Office causes incompatible and corrupt documents, and then you have worms, worms, worms, and more worms.
    The savings from avoiding one single outbreak of a Windows worm, tens of billions of dollars, will more than cover any upgrade to Ubuntu or Red Hat plus development of a few custom applications.

    It’s legal to sell fertilizer. It’s not legal to call it a dessert topping or a floor wax. The M$ EULA might as well say in big letters “FOR NOVELTY PURPOSES ONLY. NOT FOR DEPLOYMENT ONLINE”

  2. phel said,

    August 9, 2009 at 8:04 am

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    Something has happened to investigative and critical journalism over the last couple decades. Tech media should have pushed the importance of security and robust applications all along. Systems and applications with inadequate security would not have been viable on the market had they been slaughtered in reviews across the board. How many articles praising windows do you see for every one that criticise it for its fundamental flaws?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Look at what Microsoft does to journalists who dare to say that Windows is not secure. Microsoft understands how to police coverage. More on that soon (leaked “Microsoft McCarthyism” list which tells them which journalists are “bad”). We’re still parsing through Comes exhibits…

    zatoichi Reply:

    Look at what Microsoft does to journalists who dare to say that Windows is not secure.

    Roy, plenty of people say WIndows is not secure. It’s generally accepted that Windows systems are less secure than Linux systems. Are you claiming that Microsoft goes after everybody who does a story on Vista security issues?

    All twenty-seven and a half million of ‘em…?

    zatoichi Reply:

    Tech media should have pushed the importance of security and robust applications all along.

    I don’t think you understand the “tech media” terribly well. Aside from folks who have a vested interest in security issues (e.g. Bruce Schneier), the tech media has always been largely supported by the advertising largesse of the tech industry.

    Systems and applications with inadequate security would not have been viable on the market had they been slaughtered in reviews across the board.

    One additional issue here is that media product reviewers, by and large, understand security issues about as well as the general public does, i.e. not at all.

  3. zatoichi said,

    August 9, 2009 at 9:31 am

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    This is another moronic misrepresentation of the facts, Roy. One journalist suggested “banning Windows”—something unlikely to happen—and one other suggested (stupidly) suing Microsoft for a DDOS attack initiated against a third party by a fourth party.

    If your psychotic neighbor gets mad at you and cuts the brake lines on your car, and you crash into a wedding reception, you don’t get to sue Ford, even though they designed the car in such a way that the brake lines were accessible.

    Do you even think this stuff through before you publish it? (That was a rhetorical question, it’s clear that the answer is “no”.)

    twitter Reply:

    You clearly missunderstand the issue and the impact it will have on Windows use. M$ botnets have finally done something that annoys M$ users in an unforgivable way. For a long time, M$ users managed to get along, despite their platform problems. Free software and cracked commercial software provided them with browsers, email clients, IM clients and other programs to mitigate previous damage. Now we see a demonstration of individuals using M$’s incompetence to remove the current killer applications for everyone. Facebook and twitter have influential and intelligent users who will soon make the rational choice to protect what they enjoy. These users were already leaving M$. Now they will question M$ use at work. M$ will try to spin this in favor of Windows 7 deployment but their goose is cooked. This story is just going to get bigger and uglier because Windows 7 is not the answer and the botnet problem will only get worse until Windows is gone.

    zatoichi Reply:

    M$ botnets have finally done something that annoys M$ users in an unforgivable way.

    Well, if you think many enterprises are going to be dropping Microsoft because their employees were unable to use Twitter or Facebook, I’d have to say you’re mistaken…

    In point of fact, we haven’t yet managed to get the majority of users off of Internet Exploder.

    …the botnet problem will only get worse until Windows is gone.

    Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you that, overall, Windows is not likely to be “gone” any time soon. You’re tilting at windmills here, Señor Quixote.

    The further sad fact is that, if your dream came true, and Linux systems suddenly represented a significant proportion of the desktop, the folks who write malware would certainly turn their efforts to subverting Linux systems, probably with some degree of success.

    Just as with OS X, which is arguably a lot less secure than Vista, low market share affords a level of protection from exploitation: Linux systems don’t represent an attractive or large enough target for anyone to want to take advantage of…

  4. pinguinpat said,

    August 9, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Gravatar

    Mister zatoichi,

    Maybe you could look to it this way: when a gas station sold fuel with lead in it, it would have been very normal because it was the normal stuff to sell.

    If the same gas station would do the same thing today it would be sued it’s ass of. Compare the situation with Microsoft: they start to sell operating systems in a period where internet didn’t exist. Measurements against all kind of security issues where not needed (?) Today Microsoft still makes new software on a proven base thats insecure. Why didn’t Microsoft change it’s architecture long time ago? Why shouldn’t they be kept responsible for there structurally failing of there software?? Is it really normal that they keep restaurating a new building before it’s even build ??

    zatoichi Reply:

    Today Microsoft still makes new software on a proven base thats insecure.

    Well, I wouldn’t use it, then. Plenty of people still do, however, and neither inarticulate comments, nor demands that they be free the way you tell them to, will keep them from doing so.

    Why didn’t Microsoft change it’s architecture long time ago?

    How would I know? Ask ‘em.

    Why shouldn’t they be kept responsible for there structurally failing of there software??

    Because you agree not to hold them responsible when you install and use their software, if you choose to do so: that’s what “no warranty” means. Just like with GPL-licensed software.

    Always read the fine print.

  5. pinguinpat said,

    August 9, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Gravatar

    Do you know the song from the Bloodhoundgang: the bad touch? We are not more than mammals!! When there’s a critical mass, you can make a human eat shoe laces for breakfast!! When you sell a computer to a newbie there’s a good change that he/she doesn’t care about the os. If there’s not a penguin with a gun pointed in they’re back they simply wont leave the shop with Linux on there laptop, that is if they can :(

    I did try to ask Microsoft about the architect problems but my cellphone ran out of power after a 3 hour call, I heard a friendly lady say “For Bill Gates pres” she didn’t tell me the rest :(

    About the license: imagine, I buy a laptop with Windows on it (I woke up in sweat when I had that dream) the license is OEM of course so I am the only possible owner if you read the license. Someone steals my machine (you stupid, it got Windows on it) and puts a botnet on it. Now you: hacking and stealing are the same things > someone takes over you’re computer. What can a judge say? You bought a computer, you installed a intrusion alarm, you locked up your front door and you install updates automatically just like most users do. Microsoft judges exist, but what can an other judge say then: You agreed with the license, you’re guilty: you have to pay a symbolic 500 million euro to twitter , I know you had a criminal visitor who exploited the top 500 bugs from Microsoft, but you were the only one that didn’t run away in time??

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