[Dshield] Microsoft - Threat to National Security?

Coxe, John B. JOHN.B.COXE at saic.com
Wed Sep 24 22:45:34 GMT 2003


I will try to wipe off my OS warpaint and these comments are strictly my
own, continually subject to revision.  One point I would take up with the
paper is the fact that the problem is not confined to the desktop periphery.
Code Red is an excellent example of where service infrastructures were
compromised on a widespread level.  The very fact that its fires raged for
months says something too.

The problem, IMHO, is that corporations have settled on comfortable (!=
reliable) MicroS**t environments for their enterprise services.  It is a
decision based on cost and availability of capable labor.  The PC hardware
is a bargain dollar-for-dollar against equivalent computing power.  Linux
may be practically free.  But anyone who has tried to hire capable *nix
admins knows, even after the dotcom collapse, they are relatively scarce.
Management also is generally not comfortable with the basics, much less the
details, of the *nix environment.  However, Windows servers are basically
just like their familiar desktops.  So they settle on Windows for their
servers and put their trust in the ubiquitous MCSE.  Though there are a lot
of bright and capable MCSEs out there, there are also a lot of unfocused,
improperly trained, and unmotivated outside of 8am-5pm MCSEs (unlike the
general *nix counterpart).  The field was flooded by the vacuum of career
opportunities.  Their presence is exacerbated by the MCSE training and focus
that is not on true network and system fundamentals, but on (perhaps
practical) MS's implementation of "standards" and their desktop
environments.

Their comments on complexity probably won't be properly received by some.
Complexity is often "neat" and convenient.  MS Exchange / Outlook (MAPI) is
fat and network/system resource intensive, as an example.  But it also is
feature rich and fits the bill for a lot of enterprises.  It places a lot of
productivity risk into one huge package.  And it, to borrow one of their
terms, locks in the users to all of the features implemented.  If you don't
like the way they do calendaring and meeting requests, tough.  And if they
break, oh well.  It's like the DVD breaking on your combo TV/VCR/DVD unit.
No room for 3rd parties most of the time.

MS does deserve some credit.  They have taken Xerox's framework and truly
developed a comfortable Windows environment.  So did Apple I suppose, though
I haven't used one since the Apple II went to 64K.  Also their Windows for
Workgroups byproducts, that haunt us to this day, did provide a comfy way to
exchange files on a local network.  It's too bad that many port
135/137/139/445 beacons out there are residential broadband desktops that
have no practical reason for this default configuration.

If Moore's Law can be extended to Windows featuresets, the OS is going to
become a digital Frankenstein's monster, replicated far beyond reasonable
control.


-----Original Message-----
From: Kenton Smith [mailto:ksmith at chartwelltechnology.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2003 10:35 AM
To: list at dshield.org
Subject: [Dshield] Microsoft - Threat to National Security?


Has anyone else had a chance to read this report regarding how
Microsoft's monopoly position makes it a national security threat? I'd
be curious to hear other people's take on this. I'm still trying to come
up with something coherent, it's certainly controversial, I'll give it
that.
Go here and click on the Read Report link -
http://www.ccianet.org/index.php3

Please don't make this an o/s war thread, that's not in anyone's best
interest.

Kenton

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