Worming your way out

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Technology
August 14th, 2003 • 5:04 pm

Charles Cooper at C|Net writes about the latest virus/worm exploiting a security flaw in Windows:

Since when should a company receive kudos for fixing something it should have taken care of years ago?… Microsoft has argued that this is hard stuff to master. No doubt. But is it much more complicated than airline engineering or bridge construction?… Funny thing about expectations. Travelers getting onto planes expect to debark in one piece. When people drive across a bridge, they do so confident about exiting safely on the other bank. If the plane or bridge dumps out halfway, I doubt surviving family members would be consoled by the promise that Version 1.1 will take care of the glitches… After two decades’ worth of Swiss cheese software security, the world’s biggest supplier of operating system software has run out of excuses.

Now, if only frustrated Wintel columnists would actually take things to the next level and explore the alternative(s).

2 Responses to “Worming your way out”

  1. Pierre Igot says:

    Well, based on my experience with Microsoft software (mostly Office), I would say that there is indeed something inherently different about Microsoft products — something that I would describe as sloppy programming and feature bloat.

    We probably will never know exactly how vulnerable Mac OS X would be if it were the dominant operating system — but the overall quality of Apple software (compared to Microsoft’s) leads me to think that it would be significantly less.

    In any case, I am not hoping that Mac OS X will become the dominant OS. I just think that the current domination of Windows is utterly unhealthy. I would be much more comfortable with a distribution like 70 % / 30 %.

    I too am very happy that I don’t have to worry about being infected with viruses — but OTOH even if I’m not personally affected things such as the latest worm do affect so many people that it ends up having an impact on me just the same.

  2. Michael Williams says:

    I hope they don’t explore the alternatives. The reason Windows is perceived to be insecure is partly that it is badly written, yes, but it’s mainly because it’s the dominant operating system.

    If you’re a virus writer, there is no kudos in writing a virus that can only infect, say, 5% of clients and a tiny fraction of servers. Moreover, the relative paucity of vulnerable hosts makes writing viruses that propogate before they are stamped out much, much harder.

    It’s naive to think that there is something inherently different [*] about Unixes such as Linux or OS X that makes them immune to such vulnerabilities as buffer overflows (several Securty Releases distributed through OS X’s Software Update since 10.2 was released have fixed very similar vulnerabilities to the one exploited by Blaster).

    I’m happy to carry on using my Mac, and advising my colleagues, family and friends to do the same (my mum vowed to get a Powerbook when I walked her through removing Blaster over the phone last night) while the rest of the world suffers, as long as it means I never have to worry about viruses.

    [*] unless you subscribe to Open Source’s “with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow” creed which, to a certain extent, I do.

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