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05.11.10

Despite Security Lies and Security Failures, Microsoft Instructs Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 8:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Microsoft is telling lies about the number of flaws in its software, it admits failing to secure its software (statistics indicate exacerbation), and yet, Scott ‘Windows zombie tax’ Charney gets to tell participants of the Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit what to do next

IN OUR most recent post about Windows insecurity news we showed that nothing is improving at Microsoft when it comes to security. It’s only the messages (engagements with the public) that seemingly change. Last week we wrote about Microsoft pretending that it supports standards, which is an utter lie only PR can buy. Here is part of the PR where Microsoft joins Apple [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] in its attack on Flash, not just its attack on Theora, which we covered in:

Microsoft — like Apple — is being denounced for the hypocrite that it is:

MS criticises Adobe over security and performance. Physician, heal thyself!

Let’s not forget that Microsoft does exactly the same thing as Adobe (only with limited platform support) whenever it markets Silver Lie. Microsoft went further than that when .NET toys got secretly injected into Firefox without permission, thus creating security and performance issues without users’ consent.

Microsoft is also being somewhat hypocritical when it makes some statements as covered in the article “Adapt or die, Microsoft warns business”.

Microsoft has failed to adapt to a connected world and a world of computing mobility. Now it has debt to repay.

Addressing the subject of security, Microsoft spreads lies with its secret patches, which probably mean that there are fake figures in this latest ‘security’ report where Microsoft is conveniently blaming “ISVs” for security problems in Windows. The ‘Microsoft press’ plays along with this talking point and other publications are trying to make it an excuse for expensive Microsoft “upgrades”, which Microsoft urges/advocates using withdrawal of support. How ruthless and deceiving. Here is an example of Microsoft’s tactics:

The bottom line comes down to this: if your company plans to stay with XP well into 2011 and you’re still using IE6, you’ve got to upgrade that browser. Knowing that IE9 won’t support XP, you can safely move to IE8 knowing it’s the end of the line for IE on XP. Or, you can move to Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Opera — but a company that’s still stuck on IE6 isn’t likely to be that adventurous. The web developers of the world will be happy with anything that gets you off IE6.

It is a “bait and switch” manoeuvre in a sense. Microsoft did the same thing to Windows 2000 users some years ago, for no practical reasons except the profit motive.

Going back to the hidden patches scam, can anyone believe that Microsoft is patching with just two “critical” bulletins? For several years Microsoft has been hiding its flaws and patching them silently for vanity purposes.

Microsoft on Tuesday will issue two critical bulletins that will fix vulnerabilities in Windows and Office, which if exploited successfully, could allow a remote attacker to take control of the computer, the company said Thursday.

There were also some broken patches which needed to be re-released.

Let’s consider this news in light of last week’s reports, such as:

The allegations are so serious that Microsoft could not afford to keep quiet without a carefully-crafted piece of spin. Here are the latest excuses from Microsoft (it’s the psychology of lying without technically lying):

Note that a policy such as this implies that Microsoft will not patch known, internally-discovered vulnerabilities if an externally-sourced vulnerability of the same or lesser severity is not available for the silent patch to piggyback on. They’ll sit on it, and we won’t know for how long because they don’t document it.

Utter spin. Groklaw has just found this new article which nicely explains Microsoft’s lies in this case:

#3 Tell the truth, misleadingly. The hardest lies to catch are those which aren’t actually lies. You’re telling the truth, but in a way that leaves a false impression. Technically, it’s only a prevarication – about half a sin. A 1990 study of pathological liars in New York City found that those who could avoid follow-up questions were significantly more successful at their deceptions.

Microsoft has also added a formal statement to The Register’s article on the subject (silent patching) because it received a lot of attention. Apologists of Microsoft also left comments trying to defend what Microsoft did there. It means it’s extremely damaging.

“Microsoft’s security record continues to be poor simply because Microsoft does not handle security issues properly, having for example ignored known flaws for 5 months until a disaster came.”In other insecurity news, SharePoint 2007 has a 0-day vulnerability (meaning that it’s already under attack). Microsoft has confirmed this [1, 2] and only issued a “workaround” rather than a solution [1, 2, 3]. As this one blogger puts it, there is “no SharePoint fix” and it says nothing about Microsoft’s hiding of patches and flaws (clustering them is possible if one wants to crunch the numbers). How many flaws does Microsoft patch in SharePoint silently? In this case, Microsoft had no choice but to publicise it (someone beat Microsoft to it).

Microsoft’s security record continues to be poor simply because Microsoft does not handle security issues properly, having for example ignored known flaws for 5 months until a disaster came [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]. That’s just negligence [1, 2, 3].

As a result of such negligence, IDG reports that “Conficker found on 25% of enterprise Windows PCs,” according to Microsoft.

Conficker was far and away the most prevalent threat found on Windows machines in the second half of 2009 in the enterprise, Microsoft says. The company’s security tools cleaned the Conficker worm from one quarter of enterprise Windows machines.

“25% of enterprise Windows PCs” is a lot of computers. But then again, for several years now we have known that hundreds of millions of Windows zombies were out there waiting to be commandeered. Google says that fake antivirus software is 15 percent of all malware. That’s what happens when Windows refuses to implement repositories like GNU/Linux does. GNU/Linux has had that for ages and it keeps it more bulletproof.

Going back to Microsoft’s own figures, even Microsoft admits that it’s getting worse for Windows in practical terms:

Microsoft Sees Infected PC Numbers Climbing

[...]

The numbers of PCs cleaned by Microsoft’s anti-malware software worldwide during the second half of 2009 continued to trend upward, suggesting that more PCs are getting infected in total, according to the company’s latest Security Intelligence Report (SIR).

More here.

It’s interesting that even Microsoft admits that it’s failing to tackle the problem it created (or helped create).

Microsoft’s Charney, the former government (ish) person who wants charge Mac and GNU/Linux users for Microsoft to clean up its own mess [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] is now intervening in international affairs, based on this AP report:

“Lots of times, there’s confusion in these treaty negotiations because of lack of clarity about which problems they’re trying to solve,” said Scott Charney, vice president of Microsoft Corp.’s Trustworthy Computing Group, before a speech at the Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit.

[...]

Charney, of Microsoft, believes cyber threats should be better differentiated. He proposes four categories: conventional computer crimes, military espionage, economic espionage and cyberwarfare. That approach, he argues, would make it easier to craft defenses and to discuss international solutions to each problem.

What is Microsoft doing in a Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit? And why does it tell the world how to address these issues that it itself helped create? Microsoft cannot even issue disclosures of its own flaws (because it lies pathologically), so why should anyone believe Charney and maybe implement his outrageous idea of taxing all computer/Internet users for damage caused by Windows botnets? Microsoft should be held liable for knowingly refusing to patch known flaws.

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5 Comments

  1. Yuhong Bao said,

    May 12, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Gravatar

    “Addressing the subject of security, Microsoft spreads lies with its secret patches, which probably mean that there are fake figures in this latest ’security’ report”
    Or more precisely that at best the figures include only the externally-reported ones.

  2. Yuhong Bao said,

    May 13, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Gravatar

    “Note that a policy such as this implies that Microsoft will not patch known, internally-discovered vulnerabilities if an externally-sourced vulnerability of the same or lesser severity is not available for the silent patch to piggyback on. They’ll sit on it, and we won’t know for how long because they don’t document it. ”
    Yea, MS seems to be trying hard to pretend like that the internally-discovered vulnerabilities do not exist, with nasty side-effects like this one.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes. it is important to show that they are doing this.

    Microsoft rarely gets caught because it’s hard to review binary-only patches.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    Yea, one reason why this can be nasty is that the security patches can be reverse-engineered using for example the BinDiff plugin of IDA, which would provide all necessary info that would be needed to exploit them.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    That’s still an excuse for telling fake numbers.

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