11.17.15

Another French Tragedy: Only the Insane Would Put Windows in Airports

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 7:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“If you (Senator Wellstone) vote against the war in Iraq, the Bush administration will do whatever is necessary to get you. There will be severe ramifications for you and the state of Minnesota.”Vice President Dick Cheney to Senator Paul Wellstone (D), October, 2002, just days before Wellstone’s death in an airplane accident

At airport

Summary: The involvement of Microsoft Windows in mission-critical systems (where many lives are on the line) shows extreme negligence and lack of foresight

FRANCE appears to have had problems other than terrorism. Headlines today serve to confirm, with Russia’s acceptance too, that its plane was recently taken down by terrorists, killing about twice as many people as died in Paris on Friday. Days ago the British media ran some scare stories about a French person in a British airport (a lot of misreporting about that, see our daily links for more), but how about basic technological errors? Remember what happened to a Spanair flight and also the poor judgment of British aviation. More planes crash due to technical malfunction than due to terrorism.

“Microsoft seems to be good at nothing these days, perhaps other than back doors and back room deals.”Based on a new report, France is still running mission-critical systems with Windows, even really ancient versions of it, as ancient as 3.1 (see “Windows 3.1 Is Still Alive, And It Just Killed a French Airport” in [1] below). What are they thinking? This is just nuts! It’s not from The Onion and it’s definitely no satire.

Microsoft seems to be good at nothing these days, perhaps other than back doors and back room deals. Recall Microsoft’s new body cameras partnership with TASER, which we mentioned a few times, then see [2,3] below. Conficker, a Windows virus, is now being preinstalled on body cameras. How many lives will likely be sacrificed as a result of this? Police brutality too needlessly kills a lot of people.

“Haven’t Snowden’s leaks shown enough to convince everyone that genuine security is not the goal at Microsoft but actually somewhat of a foe?”Windows is not suitable for anything that requires security because Windows is simply not designed to be secure. It’s designed for “national security” (meaning back doors and bogus encryption that the state can crack). Proprietary software in general is bad, including firmware [4], based on new reports. Microsoft is now silently modifying its patches after it bricked Outlook, which has back doors. To quote the British media: “Many IT managers and normal folks held off on last week’s patching cycle after one Microsoft fix – KB 3097877 – broke several versions of Outlook. The error came in how the software handled fonts, and resulted in the email client crashing as soon as some emails were scrolled through.”

We have already covered this here the other day, in relation to back doors in Microsoft data encryption. It is unthikable and rather unbelievable that some people still get away with putting Windows in mission-critical systems, even in governments and businesses. Haven’t Snowden’s leaks shown enough to convince everyone that genuine security is not the goal at Microsoft but actually somewhat of a foe?

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Windows 3.1 Is Still Alive, And It Just Killed a French Airport

    A computer glitch that brought the Paris airport of Orly to a standstill Saturday has been traced back to the airport’s “prehistoric” operating system. In an article published Wednesday, French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné (which often writes serious stories, such as this one) said the computer failure had affected a system known as DECOR, which is used by air traffic controllers to communicate weather information to pilots. Pilots rely on the system when weather conditions are poor.

    DECOR, which is used in takeoff and landings, runs on Windows 3.1, an operating system that came onto the market in 1992. Hardly state-of-the-art technology. One of the highlights of Windows 3.1 when it came out was the inclusion of Minesweeper — a single-player video game that was responsible for wasting hours of PC owners’ time in the early ’90s.

  2. Police Body Cameras Shipped with Pre-Installed Conficker Virus

    US-based iPower Technologies has discovered that body cameras sold by Martel Electronics come pre-infected with the Conficker worm (Win32/Conficker.B!inf).

  3. Who controls the cop cam?

    At the end of October this year, 14,000 police officials from around the world gathered in a Chicago conference center for the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference. It was equal parts political convention and trade show, with panels on crisis response splitting time with hundreds of small companies selling bomb-disposal robots and guns.

    There were more than a dozen body camera companies on the show floor, but Taser made the biggest splash, constructing a Disney-style amphitheater called the USS Axon Enterprise. The show began with a white-jacketed captain, who announced he had traveled back in time from the year 2055, where lethal force has been eliminated and police are respected and loved by their communities. To explain how to get there, he ran through a history of policing tech. Approaching the present moment, he fell into a kind of disappointed sadness.

  4. Badware in the firmware all over the place

    This is really no surprise: embedded system vendors aren’t good at carrying out quality assurance on their firmware images, and their embedded Web server software is what you’d expect from something written in the last 20 minutes of Friday afternoon.

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