Sat, Sep
3 New Articles

Time to Recall MS Windows?

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Imagine you bought a car to drive the kids to school each day. The car works fine, gets pretty good gas mileage, and negotiates the traffic with ease. It's got its quirks, and not everything works the way you imagine it should. But then, life is kind of like that. Yeah, it is!

Then one day, you get a letter in the mail. It's a recall notice from the manufacturer. According to the letter, there's a safety issue with the car: In certain circumstances, the car will suddenly start itself, put itself into gear, and step on the accelerator. The letter advises you to take the car to the nearest dealer immediately, where this defect will be remedied at no cost to you. The letter also offers an apology for the inconvenience this may cause.

Of course, that's exactly what you do, cursing and swearing under your breath at the manufacturer for wasting your time. But you do it anyway because your safety--and the safety of your family--is at stake.

From Cars to Operating Systems: Where's the Difference?

Now, consider this same scenario in light of Microsoft Windows operating systems and the recent epidemic of email viruses and worms. The products Microsoft sells are supposed to transport your information along the Information Superhighway to and from your work, and they do a reasonable job.

Also consider that, like the automobile, our personal computers are no longer luxuries, but necessary tools, containing all the precious information that is vital to our livelihoods. In fact, these files are like information passengers and are so vital that most responsible people have added safety equipment: We've become savvy about viruses, Trojan horses, and worms and have gone to the extra trouble and expense to install firewalls, anti-virus software, spam scanners, etc.

Misplaced Anger

Now imagine this. One day, you receive an angry email from a colleague. This person informs you that your computer has sent a virus that has automatically started the colleague's email system, plundered his address book, and broadcast the virus to all of his business associates.

Of course, we would all be chagrined, embarrassed, and angry. So what does a responsible person do? You do your research! You go to of the Web site of your anti-virus software company! But what do you discover there? The virus or worm at fault has actually taken advantage of a "known flaw" or "known security hole" in the operating system on your computer. It doesn't affect other operating systems, only your operating system. What operating system is that? Microsoft Windows!

What's wrong with this picture? Why didn't the manufacturer tell you? Why did this occur? Who is to blame?

A Legacy of Irresponsible Code

If you look at the current number of viruses that are being managed by companies, the Microsoft Windows product line tops the list with an incredible 1,494 virus write-ups. This is documented by Symantec's Virus Encyclopedia. That is a greater number than all other virus/worm-affected products combined, including those related to hoaxes, cell phones, and other computer operating systems. What does it tell you? It shows a real lack of quality control and poor engineering on Microsoft's part. It also shows an inability to address the issue of security with any credibility.

Last week's scourge of virus/worm attacks--which included This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Backdoor.Sdbot.P, Downloader.Dluca, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., W32.Dinkdink.Worm, and W32.Welchia.Worm--is just the latest example. All of these infectious agents take advantage of Window's incredible permeability.

One particularly fearsome worm, W32.Sobig.F@mm, builds its own little SMTP mail server on the recipient's machine, scans the hard drive, and then starts mailing itself to any email accounts it has found. But that's not the scariest part. This cloning activity only goes for a certain period of time. It stops its nefarious activities on September 10 and then waits for further instructions from a controlling program, which it will receive through the Internet. What might those instructions be? Why September 10? Visions of 9/11 immediately crop up in everyone's mind.

Vigilante Worms

Another worm, called W32.Welchia.Worm, is a vigilante attempt created by one frustrated but enterprising worm-engineer: It goes onto unprotected Windows servers and repairs the damage done by the W32.Blaster.D worm that ravaged those same Windows servers the previous week, using the "known security hole" of Microsoft's Remote Procedure Call (RPC). Then, when it's all done, it patches the hole that allowed itself to access the server and drops dead. It is, essentially, a de-worming worm. Noble worm!

Would that Microsoft de-worm itself permanently. Physician, heal thyself!

Meanwhile, UNIX system operators must be smirking glibly. Their operating systems are not directly impacted. However, even though their mail servers (and the OS/400-based servers as well) are not affected by these particular viruses or worms, their email accounts no doubt harbor the email messages that contain the infection. In essence, these other server operating systems are delivering a coup de grace to Windows-based machines, spreading the infections without suffering the symptoms.

Who's to Blame? Who Cares?

At this point, it's pointless to further blame Microsoft for the flaws in its products or to bewail our own culpability in embracing these products. But we do need to get them fixed.

In my opinion, it is time for us to demand that Microsoft begin a product recall campaign, supervised by external security experts, to guarantee that its products meet some minimum security standards.

Microsoft's own efforts in this matter have clearly failed in the past, and its current method of posting information and fixes on its Web site doesn't cut it any more. Customer's can't follow the endless trail of URLs. It takes hours to identify if you've got the right patch, and then you're not guaranteed that it will work properly without crashing your machine.

Instead, I believe Microsoft should be required to directly contact registered users of its software. After all, Microsoft already makes certain it knows who you are, in case you want to pirate their precious code or avoid their endless marketing efforts. It should also offer its customers a complete replacement of any of its Windows operating systems--free of Internet and network-related flaws--at no cost to the original customer. And if the customer doesn't know how to install the new system, Microsoft should be required to set up service centers where the customer can get the service. Again, I believe this should be free. In other words, Microsoft should be mandated to recall its products.

Yeah! Right!

Of course, you know as well as I that this will never happen. Meanwhile, on this year's anniversary of 9/11, many Internet security experts are anticipating a sudden upsurge in virus/worm-related attacks. It appears that the first wave of these attacks have begun already, with W32.Sobig.F running unchecked across the Windows infrastructure. If this expected threat proves to be real, all Windows customers may find they are sitting ducks, tethered at the end of the Internet by a flawed Windows-based product that is waiting for explicit commands from some unknown external program.

Perhaps we could suffer a few quirks and glitches in Windows 10 years ago. But not any more. The time to recall these products has long since passed.

Thomas M. Stockwell is Editor in Chief of MC Press. He may be reached for comment at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Thomas Stockwell

Thomas M. Stockwell is an independent IT analyst and writer. He is the former Editor in Chief of MC Press Online and Midrange Computing magazine and has over 20 years of experience as a programmer, systems engineer, IT director, industry analyst, author, speaker, consultant, and editor.  


Tom works from his home in the Napa Valley in California. He can be reached at ITincendiary.com.





Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: