About | Buy Stuff | News | Products | Rants | Search | Security
Home » Resources » Rants

Five Minute Job

Week of March 8, 2005

We stand behind our software.
 - Steve Ballmer

The largest personal computer software purveyors in the world can't find their collective asses from a hole in the ground. If Redmond, by some karma-inspired stroke of benevolent fate, were to get hit by a nuclear attack with only a crater hole left in the ground where Sir Bill used to count his billions, they still wouldn't get it - they'd still not see the difference.

The latest scandal - the Wsaupdater.exe story - is a case in point, a microcosm, of what's going on (and what's not going on) in Redmond.

Here you have an operating system (which people are supposed to take seriously) that gets crippled by a simple kindergarten exploit: code is injected into the system and casually takes residence on the user's hard drive with no resistance incurred - and then goes off and corrupts the system Registry 'just like that'.

Five minute job.

The Windows Registry is a chapter - yea an encyclopaedia - unto itself, but as all by now know, it's an unfathomable abyss of ill-conceived, pseudo-important, and extremely (deliberately) intimidating gobbledegook, each new edition containing more and more wacky schemes concocted by the Redmond Rocket Scientists - and no matter how far the thing evolves (devolves) the exploits remain as simple and as deadly as ever.

The defender is surrounded. The defender has a single weak spot vulnerable like no other with no means to defend it, and if that weak spot should be exploited, everything comes crashing down - everything.

Luke Skywalker drops his payload into the Death Star...

'Goodbye Darth, ol' buddy! It's been nice knowing ya! It's been fun! Bye!'

The entire system is dependent on a small hive of files - the Registry on disk. Should one byte be lost when writing those files to disk, the entire mess becomes unusable, the system going down to never come back up again, all data most likely lost, and it's time again to get out the install CDs, call Redmond, beg for mercy, and hopefully get a new activation key so one can resume a modicum of self-respecting productive computer use.

The XP 'userinit' module is the key to starting the operating system in the first place, and without it nothing works: the system is irrevocably destroyed.

And there's nothing to protect it.

Wsaupdater.exe - an extremely simple piece of uninspired spyware - gets in there and corrupts the system startup without even breaking into a sweat.

Five minute job.

Thanks to the efforts of Lavasoft, the bad guy can be eradicated; the trouble is Lavasoft can't return the system to its former glory - that's beyond the scope of their Ad-Aware application which has to take care of tens of thousands of similar exploits against the non-existent bastions of Microsoft. They can only take out the bad guy; to get the system up and running again, the 'good' guy has to be put back in place - something Ad-Aware is not equipped to do.

It's a simple task to write a module to do this - a five minute job - and Radsoft could write it and make it publicly available. But so doing would only give the weasels of the world more excuses to go on using the Shite of Sir Bill. Hoping people will sooner or later learn their lesson, one refers instead to the excellent and extremely user-friendly workaround provided by the Borg itself.

The problem is that even here Microsoft show what bungling idiots they are. You'd think that with all their billions they could at least get the technical details on a single HTML page right - but no: we all know Microsoft all too well by now. Give them the opportunity to screw something up royally and they'll leap at it.

Visit the Microsoft page for Wsaupdater.exe again. Note how it's explained that '%windir%' is the 'system32' directory. Note how the article goes on to give an example of how this works: that because '%windir%' equates to the 'system32' directory, the path '%windir%\system32' therefore resolves to '%windir%\system32'.

Even an AOL user will see the bungling stupidity in this. '%windir%' stands for 'Windows directory' - no more. Only the 'Windows directory'. It is not, repeat not, 'system32'.

It's the parent directory - oftentimes named 'WinNT' or perhaps 'Windows' or perhaps whatever.

And it's given in percent signs ('%') because it's officially (but for no good reason) a system variable.

It's defined elsewhere (most likely in the Registry so no one but the hackers can ever find it) and it's most definitely not a recursive version of itself.

Any clueless user perusing the Microsoft bug page for this ever so atypical and ever so slight slip-up is going to be confused - and why not? The information is incorrect - blatantly, irresponsibly incorrect. Remember - this is Microsoft talking about their own operating system, and they're so clueless they don't even know themselves how the sorry thing works.

To all but the most snowed-in users this Microsoft page for the Wsaupdater.exe workaround must unequivocally demonstrate what a bunch of bungling idiots Microsoft are and what a hopeless piece of do-do Microsoft technology represents. A simple straightforward hack attack wreaks havoc and forces victims to devote ten times the effort to get it out of there. The attack vector is eminently simple - in fact, due to the total lack of a security model, coherent thinking, and industrial integrity in anything Microsoft have ever shipped, there is no resistance at all.

Five minute job.

Now try to undo it - to right the wrong that has been done. The attacker Wsaupdater.exe had no issues whatsoever. But try to undo it and you're saddled with a totally crippled operating system and an egregious workaround just to be able to use your computer again.

This is the essence of Microsoft's 'way of not thinking' and all but the sorriest most clueless kitchen table users grasp this by now.

You can't correlate use of a computer system this bad with any other consumer experience anywhere - no product in any market, in any category, would ever be put together in such a slipshod fashion, with such a total disregard for the consumer, and not result in the vendor being taken to court, driven out of business, and burnt in effigy.

But that is not the computer market. Consumers in the computer market continue to get shat on and suffer humiliations like in no other market and yuck it up over and over again, turning the other cheek and begging and whining on their rugs pointed to the Pacific Northwest:

'More, please!'

And the Borg, inspired by their relentless demand for more, oblige and give them more. Always more.

Five minute job.

About | Buy | News | Products | Rants | Search | Security
Copyright © Radsoft. All rights reserved.