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How Windows is @#$%ing You
Week of August 20, 2005
Ever since you've been on the net it's been @#$%ing you. Vista won't change a thing.
Ever since you've been on the net Microsoft Windows has been @#$%ing you. It's still @#$%ing you. And it will go on @#$%ing you - yes, even with Vista.
Microsoft Windows is a @#$%ing mess. To understand better why this is so, it might be best to first look at the comparable systems that aren't @#$%ing you.
Apple's OS X is generally considered the most secure system available today. It doesn't @#$% you. It's considered 'insanely great'. For example, the US FBI swear by it. They wouldn't let any computer @#$% with them. For them it's an easy choice as OS X is 'out of the box secure': they need only unwrap a new unit and plug it in. There are no worries whatso-@#$%ing-ever.
But OS X is Unix and there are any number of Unix alternatives out there: Linspire, NetBSD, FreeBSD, Linux with GNOME / KDE, Gentoo, SuSE (owned by Novell and IBM), Red Hat. And they're all equally secure. None of them @#$% with you either.
What makes them secure? Why will Microsoft Windows - even Vista - keep on @#$%ing you?
Before the Internet
Before the Internet the only danger was from those @#$%ing viruses that spread through floppy diskettes. Computers weren't otherwise connected. Viruses attached themselves to executables (program files) and disk boot sectors (also executable code). They were a @#$%ing pain in the ^&*. They spread by coming into contact with other disks and other systems.
If you didn't let anyone near your computer; if you were careful what diskettes you accepted from others; if you never left a diskette in your floppy drive when you restarted your computer; then you were safe.
The @#$%ing Internet changed all that.
Everyone's inside your computer when you're connected to the Internet. They're accessing it with email, with chat room software, with downloads, with file sharing software, when you surf the web. Each and every one of your access points represents a danger and the possibility your safety will be jeopardised.
Any programmer can @#$% up: anyone can make a programming mistake so something goes wrong. That happens all the time and on all platforms. But what is unique about Micro-@#$%ing-soft Windows is that with its design - or lack thereof - you're totally @#$%ed when this happens: there are no further defences.
The X Bit
When bad things happen, they happen through code that's going to run on your computer. Look at your file system. Look at the attributes your program files have. Is there an attribute which controls whether a program file may be run or not?
Unix has an 'X' bit - but more: Unix has three X bits per file. A program file cannot be run unless the appropriate X bit is set.
I We They
Unix files are owned: they have both a user and a group owner. When the X bits are set or cleared on a file, they're set or cleared for the file's owner, the owner's user group, and the rest of the world.
It's possible to have a program file on disk that only you can execute, or only you and members of your user group can execute. If anyone else comes into contact with it, they can do nothing. They're @#$%ed.
Even folders are owned on Unix: if you create (and thereby own) a folder, you can set its attributes so no one else can enter it.
Look around at your disk: can you see who the owners of your files are? Does it say anywhere at all? Can you find any folders you can't get into?
Look at your Program Files folder: is this your folder as opposed to somebody else's? Does it say anywhere that these are your program files? Can anyone run these programs?
Where is your home area? Is there an area of your disk which is yours and yours alone? An area no one else can get into?
Windows programs have a bad habit of carrying around files known as dynamic link libraries (DLLs). These files often get dumped into sensitive system areas, even overwriting files that are already there.
Bloody @#$%ing nuisance is what they are.
A typical install program on Windows - in the best of all cases - will whiz by the file names it's copying in at a blurring, blinding speed; it might leave you a log file that shows what's happened after all the damage is done; but that's it. Congratulations: you've just been @#$%ed.
Trojans will often overwrite your system files with versions of their own. These files will be disguised as authentic Microsoft system files: they'll have the same 'modified' date and time as their predecessors and even have the same 'version information'. But they're rogue code, designed to @#$% you over bad.
Micro-@#$%ing-soft Windows can't stop these @#$%ing programs from corrupting your @#$%ing system: there are no effective ways to protect even these vital areas of your computer from corruption.
The Same Old System
So why would Microsoft put you in danger like this? Was it by design?
No: by a lack thereof.
Microsoft started by selling programming languages for early personal computers. Pretty @#$%ing bad ones too. They were asked by IBM to find a @#$%ing operating system for their @#$%ing PC. They ended up buying a simple @#$%ing system for fifty thousand @#$%ing dollars and licensing it to IBM. And back then no one was connected - and hardly anyone had a computer in the shop, much less on the kitchen table. And those IBM boxes weren't called 'personal' for nothing.
And despite all the hype, all the bells and whistles, it's still the same old @#$%ing system they bought twenty five or so years ago. Even Windows Vista, despite its roots in Windows NT, will suffer from the same basic flaw.
Microsoft have no security model and they know it, but they're not going to gut Windows and start over from scratch. They're working with what they already have, trying to find ways to secure something that's inherently insecure - inherently @#$%ed.
One of their latest scrambles is to try to isolate Internet programs from the computer itself. @#$%ing joke is what it is. As soon as someone pokes a hole, the @#$%ing system will be wide open to exploitation as before. Your identity, passwords, and life savings will still be up for grabs. You'll be @#$%ed all over again.
So when that wee @#$%er Bill Gates promises you he'll play clean from now on, you can tell him where to go.
You can tell him to go @#$% himself.
Rant of the Week: Service Pack 3