Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft Angers the World by Asking for a Form of Security Bailout, More Fundamental Windows Flaws Found

Screaming



Summary: Microsoft's recommendation of "Internet tax" for removing Windows botnets/zombies doesn't fly; Windows DEP (data execution prevention) is busted

EARLIER in the week we wrote about Microsoft's Charney suggesting that everyone -- UNIX and Linux users included -- should pay [1, 2] to compensate for Microsoft's own negligence [1, 2, 3]. Many people already pay for the damage collectively; for instance, if banks lose money due to zombie Windows PCs that compromise accounts, then interest rates will be lessened. These are some of the hidden costs everyone pays for Microsoft's incompetence. In Germany, it's hardly even hidden anymore.



"Microsoft's Laugh-a-Minute Show Continues," says Glyn Moody regarding Microsoft's arrogant suggestion.

Can you believe it? Microsoft's lousy programming has caused *billions* of pounds worth of damage to the global economy in terms of downtime, lost files (and probably blood pressure problems) and it has the bare-faced cheek to suggest there should be an “Internet usage tax” on *everyone* (including GNU/Linux users) to pay for the rectification of *its* mistakes? No wonder Scott Charney has the humorous and manifestly self-contradictory title of “Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Trustworthy Computing”....


Here is another response: "Taxing every citizen for Microsoft Windows problems? Are we insane?"

Just when you think you've heard everything, something new arrives. Two years ago, we heard that half a million computers are infected with malicious bots every day (a "bot" is a software program that enters your computer from the Internet or inside infected files, then runs in the background to steal your data, send spam or wreak havoc in some other way).

This is a huge problem both because we depend on digital data in too many ways to explain them here (but you may read about them in the Open Government Book) and because of environmental reasons. According to a McAfee report published in May 2009 the amount of energy used every year to transmit, process and filter spam would be enough to power 2.4 million homes, with the same Greenhouse Gas emissions as 3.1 million passenger cars.

On March 2nd, 2010, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Trustworthy Computing Scott Charney spoke at a computer security conference about this very theme, that is how to fight the damages caused by computers infected by bots (or "malware").

According to the summary published on ComputerWorld, Mr Charney started correctly. He pointed out that, just as there are quarantine programs for people with infective diseases, the same thing should happen with people who have computers infected by malware but, for any reasons, won't fix them up as soon as possible: such people should not be allowed to go online until their computer is clean and safe.


Windows is insecure not because people are negligent; Microsoft itself is extremely negligent and there are many examples of this. "Typical Windows user patches every 5 days," says this new report from IDG (quoting Secunia).

75 Microsoft, third-party patch events each year are a burden most users can't bear, says Secunia


Here is Berend-Jan Weve finding another security problem in Windows. From SJVN:

Honest to God I don't go around trying to pick on Windows for its security problems, but the hackers keep finding new ways to break into it. And, this time, they've found a doozie. Berend-Jan Wever, aka "Skylined," a Google security software engineer has busted DEP (data execution prevention), one of the few significant security improvements Microsoft has made to Windows.

DEP, which was added to Windows back in August 2004 in XP SP2. It addressed the very common hacking technique of buffer overflows. In a buffer overflow attack, a malicious program tries to overwrite the buffer, the amount of memory a program has been allocated for running its code in. By so doing, a buffer overflow overwrites memory that may or may not have been allocated to other programs. In either case, it can then use this overwritten memory for its own purposes. Usually this means running malware or even taking over the computer itself.

[...]

Unfortunately, Wever, using a variation of a hacking technique he helped perfect called heap-spraying has busted DEP. In heap-spraying, the attack code made an educated guess at where vulnerable memory that could be used to execute unapproved programs could be found. In Wever's latest trick, the attacking code looks for clues on where to find memory that's allowed by DEP to run programs. Once armed with this information, the attack code can then successfully plant itself in the system.

While the attack code isn't ready to go for any script-kiddie, as Wever himself points out, he has given enough information on how to defeat DEP that it's only a matter of time before a competent cracker uses the code to start enabling new attacks.

[...]

In short, if you're running 32-bit Windows of any sort-XP, Vista, 7, Server 2008-you can look 'forward' to being even more vulnerable to attacks. Have I mentioned lately that I tend to do most of my desktop computing with Linux? Well, I am. This exploit opens up a new and huge hole in Windows' already vulnerable defenses.


For some of its better enhancements to security, Microsoft relies on Free software in the form of firewalls, even virus scanners.

The open source ClamAV project is often used on servers as a way to scan and secure e-mail gateways and Windows file shares. Now ClamAV is coming to the Windows desktop too, by way of the cloud.


Vista 7 is not a solution because it's not secure either. See the links below.

  1. Cybercrime Rises and Vista 7 is Already Open to Hijackers
  2. Vista 7: Broken Apart Before Arrival
  3. Department of Homeland Security 'Poisoned' by Microsoft; Vista 7 is Open to Hijackers Again
  4. Vista 7 Security “Cannot be Fixed. It's a Design Problem.”
  5. Why Vista 7 Could be the Least Secure Operating System Ever
  6. Journalists Suggest Banning Windows, Maybe Suing Microsoft Over DDoS Attacks
  7. Vista 7 Vulnerable to Latest “Critical” Flaws
  8. Vista 7 Seemingly Affected by Several More “Critical” Flaws This Month
  9. Reason #1 to Avoid Vista 7: Insecurity
  10. Vista 7 Left Hijackable Again (Almost a Monthly Recurrence)
  11. Trend Micro: Vista 7 Less Secure Than Vista
  12. Vista 7 Less Secure Than Predecessors? Remote BSoD Now Possible!

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