[Full-Disclosure] RE: M$ - so what should they do?

From: Edge, Ronald D (edge_at_indiana.edu)
Date: 06/22/04

  • Next message: joe: "RE: [Full-Disclosure] M$ Getting Better?"
    To: <full-disclosure@lists.netsys.com>
    Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 08:28:45 -0500

    >Message: 1
    >From: "joe" <mvp@joeware.net>
    >To: <full-disclosure@lists.netsys.com>
    >Subject: RE: [Full-Disclosure] M$ - so what should they do?
    >Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 12:29:00 -0400
    >Anything specific?
    >Obviously this isn't going to happen in the short term and
    >even long term your statement doesn't say the specific issue you feel
    is in the "basic
    >windows design" that you think is wrong? Is it virtualization
    >of memory? >Support of GUI interfaces? What?
    >At the very least what is the top hitter you think needs to be
    >addressed in technical specifics not something like IE sucks and which
    >isn't a basic windows design piece. When I think basic windows design I

    >think core pieces, api level and lower, not interfaces that makes your
    britches itch.
    >I ask this because there are a lot of people who go around
    >complaining that Windows Sucks and that it is obvious why yet can't
    state one
    >solid concrete thing let alone a solid concrete basic core Windows
    thing and
    >how they think it should be redone....
    > joe

    I would say let me count the ways, but I do not have time to write a
    So a few specifics.

    1. Windows was designed form the ground up to be insecure and trusting.
    That was the first mistake by its designers. It is almost impossible to
    achieve the correct balance of permissions one easily sets up in UNIX or
    LINUX, wherein the average users does not run as root, with privileges
    adequate to blast the OS to pieces or compromise the machine. Even the
    stabs at correcting this since Windows 2000 into XP have been half-assed
    and flawed. I can only assure that we have gone through years of pain
    trying to configure a workstation for our users that limits their
    privileges so that that are not constantly either installing software
    themselves, or getting their machines loaded with adware and spyware
    until they simply stop function. This is such a familiar phenomenon
    anymore I am shocked I have to even explain it to you. So there is a
    very specific starting point: to make stuff work, you have to run with
    too many privileges, and that is taken advantage of again and again and
    again and again by those willing to write code to compromise Windows

    2. MS programmers never met a buffer overrun they did not like. The
    point of this little bon mot is that despite all the vaunted PR from M$
    about safe computing initiative, the designers of Windows and components
    like the browser still clearly know diddly-sqaut about designing
    software to prevent casual compromises. The recent spat of absolutely
    fatal flaws in IE browser stand as just another in a long chain. Here,
    let me quote from an article this week at securityfocus.com, in which
    the author advises everyone to as fast as they can tell their
    co-workers, friends, and relatives, to quit using IE web browser to
    connect to the Internet:

      "I could go on and on. Look, let's be honest with each other. We all
    know this is true: IE is a buggy, insecure, dangerous piece of software,
    and the source of many of the headaches that security pros have to
    endure (I'm not even going to go into its poor support for Web
    standards; let that be a rant for another day). Yes, I know Microsoft
    patches holes as they are found. Great. But far too many are found. And
    yes, I know that Microsoft has promised that it has changed its ways,
    and that it will now focus on "Trustworthy Computing." But I've heard
    too many of Microsoft's promises and seen the results too many times.
    You know, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Who's
    shamed when it's "fool me the 432nd time"? Who's the fool? "


    3. MS is really responsible for introducing the paradigm that is at the
    heart of the problem of machines connected to the Internet, thanks to
    their introduction of ActiveX. This turned out to be not a solution to
    an interface and proramming problem, but a dagger aimed at local
    machines and a key to the machine for everyone on the Internet who wants
    to hack a machine. The entire paradigm of trusting remotely introduced
    code from a zillion posible places on the Internet to run on your
    machine is absolute insanity to begin with, and was the absolute wrong
    path to take as the Internet evolved. But it evolved parallel with the
    MS model of insecurity being ignored, and user interface and user
    friendliness always at the fore, any thoughts of the flawed nature of
    the code and insecurities behind the screen being ignored at every step.
    As far as I am concerned, no web site or remote connection should be
    allowed to execute any code on my machine. Any and everything that can
    be done should be done on the server end, and a final static page
    delivered to my desktop. Will this mean it is harder to right the kind
    of rich GUI interfaces Windows is capable of at the client level? Yes.
    Do I care? No. Why do I not care? Because taking the direction we have
    taken has turned computing support, use, and the Internet environment
    into a living hell of criminal activity and rampant abuse, and made my
    job as an administrator in charge of a staff trying to keep operations
    running into a constant cycle of attacks and security patches. God
    forbid we should find time to actually do anything productive with our
    machines. Half our time is spent trying to roll out MS patches to
    hundreds of machines, and desparately trying to hide our Windows server
    from the leering eyes of crackers who would gladly go for them in a
    heartbeat if we let our defenses down for a second.

    4. As a final example of what a pain in the ass MS software support can
    become, I got a not from a fellow computer support and program designer
    this week with his remarks on the coming XP SP2. He said he had found
    buried in the notes some remarks to the effect that you better have all
    the components you want installed before you install SP2, because after
    you install it, you may not be able install them AT ALL. Here was my
    replay to that revelation:
      "Ah, a return to the heady days of NT 4.0 post SP4, when you had to
    have a bible script that you followed line by line to do a new
    installation and get all the components including the web service to
    actually WORK, because if you did NOT follow the script carefully,
    things would, well, not work."

    5. I won't even go into the corporate sins of Microsoft, although a book
    could and should be written on that two. They successfully elude
    conviction for monopolistic and anti-trust practices, which they should
    not have been allowed to do. And know the argument that was at the core
    of that case, the embedding of the browser, is obviously moot, since
    they have announced it will be, well, embedded in the operating system
    in Longhorn.


    Ronald D. Edge
    Director of Information Systems
    Indiana University Intercollegiate Athletics
    edge@indiana.edu (812)855-9010

    "Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts
    of emotion, but the tranquil and steady
    dedication of a lifetime." - Adlai Stevenson

    Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.
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