back to article 74 countries hit by NSA-powered WannaCrypt ransomware backdoor: Emergency fixes emitted by Microsoft for WinXP+

The WannaCrypt ransomware worm, aka WanaCrypt or Wcry, today exploded across 74 countries, infecting hospitals, businesses including Fedex, rail stations, universities, at least one national telco, and more organizations. In response, Microsoft has released emergency security patches to defend against the malware for …

Silver badge
Boffin

worthy of mention

one source suggests that it spreads by accessing port 445, potentially from the internet.

https://www.hackbusters.com/news/stories/1532486-player-3-has-entered-the-game-say-hello-to-wannacry

and an e-mail attachment payload would give it access to your LAN. yeah, not good.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One Source

Are you sure it wasn't Wikipedia?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_TCP_and_UDP_port_numbers

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Anonymous Coward

Re: worthy of mention

Accessing Windows devices by file sharing ports (tcp/139 and tcp/445) has been a commonly used worm path for years (i.e. Sircam/Minda in 2001, more recently most cryptoware has targeted file shares) - don't open it to the Internet ever and block it outbound to the Internet to stop potentially infecting others.

Within networks where default firewall rules allow Windows file sharing, its a little harder to control (block windows file sharing between most PC's by default and centralise your file shares, ensure that central file shares have virus protection on write and security is limited to specified users/domain users to reduce the risk from "guest" devices).

Which leaves the e-mail side - most of these worms/virus infections are initially introduced via e-mail. On stand-alone PC's, ensure you have an adequate AV solution (i.e. scans temporary files and compressed files) and don't disable the default protections around executables. If you don't wish to manage AV, most of the big e-mail providers include pretty decent AV offerings as part of their service (i.e. all the big free email providers, EOP (was FOPE) for Office365 etc).

Finally, read some of the cases around organisations hit by worms/viruses that include details of entry and how the outbreak evolved. Most of the issues that caused an initial infection to become an outbreak come from relying on a single method of protection that was found to not be working correctly. A little "defense in depth" goes a long way in limiting/controlling the damage.

Oh...and assume that telling people to not open or click on "X" will result in at least 1% doing exactly that.

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Risk Management

Using windows XP is a KNOWN risk.

1. Name the chief execs of the trusts who had this risk in their risk register with "accepted" recorded.

2. Fire the chief execs of the trusts who don't even have it recorded as a risk.

Simple. Won't happen again.

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Re: Risk Management

Let me correct that for you .. You mean using Windows (whichever version) is a known risk. This vulnerability is present in 7, 8, 10 ..

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Def
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Re: Risk Management

Using a computer connected to the Internet is a known risk. Letting human beings use said computer is a bigger risk. FTFY

And yes, this vulnerability does exist in all versions of Windows. However, it was automatically patched in 10 a couple of months ago (except for those machines either not connected to the internet or owned by someone who "knows better"), and probably in the other versions too unless they're owned by someone too lazy or too paranoid to install updates in a timely manner.

Say what you will about newer versions of Windows automatically installing updates, but it's functionality that exists for a reason. The vast majority of computer users out there simply don't understand the security implications of keeping a computer patched and up to date.

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FAIL

"the SMB server bug is the result of a buffer overflow in Microsoft's code. "

BTW People make a big thing about XP but this SMB stuff is in all versions of Windows.

Remember when MS claimed they'd spent $Bn training their devs to not write insecure code and totally re-written the code base to eliminate these flaws?

How do you know when you're dealing with a monopoly?

Simple. When s**t this serious still does not force CTO level management to think "Maybe I should think about running something else on the desktop?"

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Re: Risk Management

That's not a correction. A patch for this was issued in March. If you are two months behind on your patches that would be a problem for GNU/Linux systems as well. Or do you leave your systems unpatched for that long as well? If so, you're not fit for a job as a sysadmin.

The greater problem here is agencies such as the NSA instructing companies to leave vulnerabilities available such as in the case of the Intel AMT bug which according to Semi-Accurate was almost certainly left in by request. What we're really seeing here is a highly visible example of why we shouldn't be allowing the government to mandate backdoors into systems such as Theresa May and Amber "we must know the necessary hashtags to combat terrorism" Rudd want us to create.

Seriously - an unpatched OS is a security risk. Using an OS written sixteen years ago and STILL refusing to upgrade it - that's on Jeremy Hunt and his ilk. Don't try to deflect the blame elsewhere.

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Re: worthy of mention

"On stand-alone PC's, ensure you have an adequate AV solution"

The problem with this is that the signature for any new malware won't be available until the target has been released, infected systems and been reported. When something spreads as fast as this has done that will be much too late.

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Re: Risk Management

Not only is using Windows a known risk (and not only technical, but also legal as the friendly Microsoft Auditor drops by), it is also often *completely* unnecessary.

And in scenarios where machinery is embedded, not updated often, mobile, or runs special software it is also reckless.

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Re: "the SMB server bug is the result of a buffer overflow in Microsoft's code. "

>>BTW People make a big thing about XP but this SMB stuff is in all versions of Windows.

Yes, and patched automatically in all supported versions before this happened. The reason people make a big deal about XP is because nobody should be using this 2001 OS in 2017. If you're running Windows 7 / 10 then unless you've somehow prevented it updating it's not vulnerable to this. You make it sound as if all versions are.

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Re: Risk Management

"Simple."

The word you're looking for is "simplistic".

As has already been pointed out all unpatched versions of Windows are vulnerable. Patching itself introduces risks - patches have been known to break things and now that MS are rolling multiple patches together those risks are increased. So patching also involves testing and testing takes time.

The specific risk for XP is that it doesn't get patches. But, again, the issues with XP aren't simple. In many cases it will have been retained because something mission-critical depends on it and replacing whatever that is may require major expenditure and further risks. If your MRI scanner, for instance, relies on a no-longer maintained piece of XP-only software do you simply put your hand in your pocket for a few million to replace it, commission a rewrite and take the risk that it may fail in some respect to emulate the existing product or do you keep using XP?

These sorts of issues are not easily solved. Of course they only exist in the real world so please feel free to keep helping with your advice.

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Holmes

Re: "the SMB server bug is the result of a buffer overflow in Microsoft's code. "

When s**t this serious still does not force CTO level management to think "Maybe I should think about running something else on the desktop?"

Just curious, what's the alternative?

...and don't say linux because we all know that's not going to happen.

Mac OS? Maybe, but that going to be a costly desktop refresh.

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FAIL

Re: Risk Management

This whole episode is microsofts' fault.

The root cause for all this is IE6's non standards compliant browser with ActiveX controls that microsoft then did not upgrade.

A lot of NHS software was written by people at that time and now cannot be upgraded, and so we have a lot of XP systems sitting around.

At the Royal London then the CT scanners went down so it could not take trauma / stroke / cardiac patients as these are all likely to need CT scanning.

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FAIL

Re: Risk Management

Affects all windows upto and including windows 10.

There is no excuse for running xp, but there is also no excuse for pretending it was the cause in all of this, it wasn't...

The only way to protect yourself is avoid the security nightmare that is Windows. If you only use web, buy a Chromebook. No malware, no key loggers, no constant intrusive updates, no need for antivirus, 2 second boot, it just gets the job done.

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Re: Risk Management

If your MRI scanner, for instance, relies on a no-longer maintained piece of XP-only software do you simply put your hand in your pocket for a few million to replace it, commission a rewrite and take the risk that it may fail in some respect to emulate the existing product or do you keep using XP?

And there you have hit the nail solidly on the head.

In the real world MS did a wonderful PR selling job to get people to use their OS which was inferior to OS/2 at the time and quite a lot of industrial equipment control systems were converted from OS/2 to XP. In my book that makes MS responsible to keep their OS 'safe' as long as said equipment is kept in use or pay the full cost of upgrading the equipment to allow it to use their newer OS.

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Re: Risk Management

@Ivan 4: "In my book that makes MS responsible to keep their OS 'safe' as long as said equipment is kept in use or pay the full cost of upgrading the equipment to allow it to use their newer OS."

Sorry, I don't follow your logic. Should my local supermarket restock my fridge every week once I run out of food? Or should a car manufacturer replace your clapped-out 13-year-old car with a new one?

Can you explain to me, with consideration for any contractual terms one might agree to in the EULA, how that proposal would work?

The hypothetical MRI scanner spoken of earlier wouldn't be built by Microsoft, but rather GE or Siemens or whoever, and would normally be covered by some type of service contract which MS would not be a party to. But lets not allow that to get in the way of your hysteria.

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Re: Risk Management

The only way to protect yourself is avoid the security nightmare that is Windows. If you only use web, buy a Chromebook. No malware, no key loggers, no constant intrusive updates, no need for antivirus, 2 second boot, it just gets the job done.

While I mostly agree, conexant (etc) drivers with built-in "debug" keyloggers are equally possible in a Chromebook. TLA's have disk drive firmware, and lot's of other vectors available, and more will come out. Avoiding Windows is a good step, but should be considered just one layer of many.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Risk Management

"If your MRI scanner, for instance, relies on a no-longer maintained piece of XP-only software do you simply put your hand in your pocket for a few million to replace it, commission a rewrite and take the risk that it may fail in some respect to emulate the existing product or do you keep using XP?"

I'm bored with this BS.

How much do you think an MRI scanner costs vs the cost of a replacement computer and replacement software, when amortised across a countrywide fleet of MRI scanners.

What if such systems had been based on open standards for device control, document interchange, etc? NB open standards .ne. open source so no religious arguments please. The replacement of any component subsystem could have been a near-transparent upgrade. In fact, do the relevant open standards already exist for healthcare imaging? HL7? DICOM? Etc. It's a long time since I looked.

Separately, judging by the number of Scanning as a Service HGV trailers I see parked outside hospitals and elsewhere, many organisations have outsourced imaging services of that nature to commercial 3rd party organisations, so the 3rd parties (not the trusts) would be the ones doing the necessary upgrade work. Joe Public would still pay in the end.

"These sorts of issues are not easily solved. Of course they only exist in the real world so please feel free to keep helping with your advice."

O'Really? I think a far more common situation is that the issue is *already* solved technically (open standards or whatever) but vested interests don't want to go that way, for whatever reason.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Risk Management

"This whole episode is microsofts' fault.

The root cause for all this is IE6's non standards compliant browser with ActiveX controls that microsoft then did not upgrade."

When you write the software and design it specifically for one single version of a browser from one vendor and decent project manager would see the potential risk in that and cost in an upgrade path or tell the supplier that is an unacceptable risk.

It was v6 so it was well known that browser got updated, it was well known that it was using proprietary hooks and security holes were also well known.

You can't just sit around with your fingers in your ears saying "it's too difficult to upgrade the software". You need to bite the bullet, do a complete feasibility study into upgrading the software, go for portable code if possible and pay the extra to have it well documented.

If it was possible to write the software for the CT machine in activex and for IE6 then it should be half the time to do it in a modern IDE and with the user spec laid out in front of you in the form of a working piece of software.

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Re: Risk Management

Let me correct you.

Using a computer is a KNOWN risk (do not even think of trying to tell me Linux is 100% secure - would only prove your own incompetence)

Using an OS where the manufacturer has stated "No more patches" is more of a risk than using an OS where the OS says "Patches available ASAP". Anyone choosing to use an unsupported OS should accept the responsibility of doing so.Thats was my point. (Why did you have to drop to the daft level of slagging of Windows?)

FTFY

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Re: Risk Management

Of the >140,000 million NHS yearly budget, only about 40,000 million is available for things like buying drugs, new hospitals, MRI scanners and desktop refreshes. The rest goes on wages. That's a political failure.

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Re: Risk Management

Hahahahaha. They'll get or already were promoted for saving money. :-)

This is a five minute video on how risk acceptance works in the real world. It is safe for work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IG3zqvUqJY

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LDS
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"Patching itself introduces risks"

Yes, often to the comfortable work of sysadmin dedicated to work the less he can. First, the fact you can't patch *some* machine doesn't mean you don't patch *any* machine. Second, if you can't manage the risk of patching is time to look for a new job, events like this shows you aren't able to keep a system running.

IMHO, each and every system need to be assessed against the risk of patching and put in an appropriate group. There will be groups that will be patched early, because even if a patch has issue it won't be a big problem. Also patches will be released in small groups first to assess any issue. Then there will be groups that will need more care and tests, and the "unpatcheable" one - which will of course require far more protection from outside threats. For example, an MRI PC needs to be open to world+dogs? There are several ways to protect those system. If they aren't protection, again, it's a sysadmin fault, and his managers.

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LDS
Silver badge

Re: Risk Management

Sorry, OS/2 could have been a competitor to Win 3.1, 95 and NT in 1994-1995 (when I was using it), but by the time XP/2003 came in early 2000, it had already lost. One issue was also the availability of development tools, it was far easier and quicker to develop GUI applications under Windows with one of the RAD tools available, than using one of the few C/C++ compiler under OS/2.

Also, remember that SMB is an IBM-born protocol, not a Microsoft one... <G>.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: developers, developers, developers

"it was far easier and quicker to develop GUI applications under Windows with one of the RAD tools available, than using one of the few C/C++ compiler under OS/2."

So what. Development tools are for developers. Why does the deployment environment have to be identical with the development environment, when the deployment environment is (in many cases) subject to radically different constraints? "Cost" is demonstrably no longer a valid answer.

Look who's paying the price now for the stupidity of the "one size fits all" culture. Not the IT department, not MS and their dependents, but the rest of us., who just want to see systems that are delivered on time, to budget, and work reliably.

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Re: Risk Management

And yes, this vulnerability does exist in all versions of Windows. However, it was automatically patched in 10 a couple of months ago (except for those machines either not connected to the internet or owned by someone who "knows better"), and probably in the other versions too unless they're owned by someone too lazy or too paranoid to install updates in a timely manner.

Or they're simply wary of being "upgraded" to Windows 10 with the next automatic update, that curiously lacks a "No, I don't want to upgrade" button - and interprets the closure of the popup as "Yes, please upgrade me to Windows 10", even in violation of previous documented configuration policies that expressed a customer's desire to stay with their current OS.

What isn't being discussed is WHY so many people are not enabling automatic updates (which have curiously been the default since Windows XP SP2), and Microsoft's past behaviour is a huge reason: When they pulled that automatic upgrade stunt with Windows 7 -> 10 updates, many people will not have been tech-savvy enough to Google (and then find) the right KB to remove. They will simply have reinstalled the OS and disabled updates to prevent unauthorised modifications by Microsoft. Or learned from others' misfortune and simply disabled updates before their system was "upgraded" without their permission.

When you openly piss in the village well, don't expect that water supply to remain very popular. Microsoft made it abundantly clear to many of its own customers that future "updates" could no longer be trusted. So, knowing this, one cannot blame those customers who, fearing the interruption of their business by an unauthorised change of OS, simply took the path of least resistance, and stopped trusting them.

These people were put between a rock and a hard place, and that was Microsoft's doing. Totally unforgivable, in my opinion.

To many in the IT industry who know that the free Windows 10 upgrade "offer" is no longer running, there will be many more people out there who don't know, because they stopped worrying about the issue when they disabled automatic updates, and they do not read the IT press. Of course, this plays right into the hands of hackers, and that is one good reason why the damage on this occasion has been so spectacular.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Risk Management

"The specific risk for XP is that it doesn't get patches. But, again, the issues with XP aren't simple. In many cases it will have been retained because something mission-critical depends on it and replacing whatever that is may require major expenditure and further risks. If your MRI scanner, for instance, relies on a no-longer maintained piece of XP-only software do you simply put your hand in your pocket for a few million to replace it"

Are you ignorant or just trying to misdirect?

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/18581/lifecycle-faq-windows-products

The applicable software for controlling stuff like an MRI scanner isn't desktop Windows XP, it's one of the Windows Embedded family, the XP-derived ones of which can be supported (including patches) till 2019:

Just go away, right. You're really not helping anyone.

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Re: Risk Management

>>Or they're simply wary of being "upgraded" to Windows 10 with the next automatic update, that curiously lacks a "No, I don't want to upgrade" button - and interprets the closure of the popup as "Yes, please upgrade me to Windows 10", even in violation of previous documented configuration policies that expressed a customer's desire to stay with their current OS.

I see you've already been modded up twice for your reply to my post. But we are talking Enterprise Windows licences here. You have control over updates in Enterprise licences and they also don't suddenly randomly upgrade themselves to Windows 10, either. The rest of your many paragraphs all follow from not being aware that Enterprise Windows functions differently from Home and Professional licences. There is no excuse for being two months behind on updates marked Critical or for using Windows XP which is four versions out of date of the current. Neither have anything to do with home users being updated to Windows 10 making Sysadmins reluctant to apply updates. The idea is nonsense.

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Re: worthy of mention

Meanwhile, those of us that apply critical patches within a sane time scale (say max 1 month) are unaffected - who would have known?!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Risk Management

Laughing right now at the "experts" that still continue to spread myths like it was so that it was NHS using xp that caused this. This is totally untrue.

A) it affects all versions of Windows right upto windows 10

B) the myth the NHS runs so came from a report that said 90% of NHS computers rum xp. Drill into details and it actually meant that out of the trust's that responded to the freedom of information act, 90% of the trust's had 1 or more computers running xp. That could just be 9 xp computers. My experience iless than 1% are running xp and 100% of these are not on the network. Anyone trotting gout the 90% figure is a clickbait joker.

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Re: Risk Management

Are we sure that the Reg is correct about Jeremy Hunt cancelling WIndows XP Extended Support in 2015? According to this article in 2014 it would have only lasted a single year anyway.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/07/uk-government-microsoft-windows-xp-public-sector

Having said that, if they continue to run XP after all patch support has well and truly gone, then yes they are asking for it.

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Re: Risk Management

@h4m0ny: Neither have anything to do with home users being updated to Windows 10 making Sysadmins reluctant to apply updates. The idea is nonsense.

Exactly. Enterprise users have long had the ability to control updates. It's weird that some people prefer to ignore this fact.

In any event, it's trivial to add a registry key to prevent an upgrade, or prompt to upgrade, on all versions of Windows 7 or 8/8.1

For instance:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Gwx]

"DisableGwx"=dword:00000001

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Re: Risk Management

so the 2 choices are:

1) pay millions for the upgrade off XP and be safe

2) leave the whole company on XP and take a huge risk

Nothing in between? Sounds overly simple (simplistic?) to me.

what about:

3) block all inbound access to your MRI scanner to only what is required, don't allow surfing for pron on it, and upgrade the rest of the company to a supported, patched version?

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Re: Risk Management

If the piece of hardware is xp reliant than take it off the network. That way you only have to rely on removable media that can be checked by secured machines first thus reducing attack vectors.

I've seen ultrasound scanners treated In the same way.

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Facepalm

Re: Risk Management

Of the >140,000 million NHS yearly budget, only about 40,000 million is available for things like buying drugs, new hospitals, MRI scanners and desktop refreshes. The rest goes on wages. That's a political failure.

Yeah right, why should we pay people to do this stuff?

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Re: Risk Management

"Say what you will about newer versions of Windows automatically installing updates, but it's functionality that exists for a reason."

Which would all be well and good, if the damn morons in charge of making corporate policy didn't hijack the security update process with marketing. I don't allow automatic updates because I don't want to deal with upgrade nag-ware or compatibility scanners digging through every file on my system for an 'upgrade' I haven't determined I even want. Automatic updates have to come from a TRUSTED source.

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Re: "the SMB server bug is the result of a buffer overflow in Microsoft's code. "

"Yes, and patched automatically in all supported versions before this happened. "

I would be surprised if MS is actually fixing bugs in SMBv1. Windows 7+ and Windows 2008+ support SMBv1, but default to SMBv2. So they don't use the protocol unless the remote forces them to downgrade. The 'fix' that has been around for a while is registry setting to turn off the SMBv1 protocol. Just like we did for SSLv3 (and now the lower TLS versions). Anyone who has done PCI scans has seen this working through the system for a while.

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Stop

@sad_loser

"This whole episode is microsofts' fault."

Bzzzt....

This whole thing is courtesy of Uncle Sam. Trying to keep us safe by NOT reporting discovered exploits to Microsoft and instead using them for themselves and their "greater good". What could possibly go wrong, right?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Risk Management

Yes, still getting patches for an air-gapped XP box runing legacy software thanks to the well-known registry hack -- no problems with this month's batch.

The real problem was that NHS (i.e. the ineffable Hunt) decided in 2015 that paying Microsoft for extended XP support was too expensive.

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Re: Risk Management

So you have IT manager who are SO derelict in their duties that they don't ever think that a computer system needs to be upgraded from time to time, which means that they HAVE TO provide a budget for maintenance and upgrades?

What will they do when their 20 years old computers will fail and newer ones won't be able to run WinXP?

How is it MS fault?

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Re: Risk Management

Did you read the article?

It was a decision of the UK government not to pay for XP maintenance 2 years ago!

And to provide no budget either to move to a newer system...

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Re: Risk Management

Well I used to write software for NMR and MRI scanners and it really isn't that easy with legacy kits.

Bear in mind that superconducting magnets have a lifespan of 10's of years and the RF kit is usually built to last forever. So you may well have something that works pretty well and does a very good job and would cost fortunes to replace. Also fold in the fact that one of the major historical manufactures no longer exists and things really are not that simple.

The biggest problem with an NMR/MRI setup is timing. The send receive has to operate with a degree of thiming precision in the MHz range - the less precise the timing is the greater the phase shifts and if these get too bad they are not correctible.

Timing is therefore usually handled by a single quasi autonomous card that is programmed in a unique language to trigger sequences of events. It will trigger the pulse generator, amplifier and receiver gating (if you don't gate the receiver you blast the highly sensitive circuit with 500W or so of RF and saturate the ADC. Again this is highly precise, if the gating/ungating is too slow precious sensitivity is lost.

The quasi autonomous card and the various other odds and end including frequency generator are fed their activity lists usually by an old school RISC card that is not doing anything else as you cannot afford to have multi tasking as this messes up the timing.

The old school RISC card then sends the data by ethernet to the PC (used to be SGI or SUN up tlll about 2000) which is where the issue actually is.

It really is not easy to get all these different computers talking to each other in a time critical environment. Many hours are spent in development puzzling over multi channel oscilloscopes as to why apparently correct commands and sequences of events are not replicated properly. It will have taken 10 PhD level scientists to get things to work properly and debug them over a period of a year plus.

I'm afraid plugging a new PC into the front of the things and praying won't work I mean really won't work and you could end up with some very expensive bricked hardware.

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Re: "the SMB server bug is the result of a buffer overflow in Microsoft's code. "

"Remember when MS claimed they'd spent $Bn training their devs to not write insecure code and totally re-written the code base to eliminate these flaws?"

Never claimed to have rewritten the codebase. Everyone was made to own, and responsible for reviewing, part of the old crufty code, some of which was years old. So someone's name it on this. But these 16/32/64 confusions, and (especially) the byte/char confusion when moving from the ASCII to the Unicode days, are incredibly difficult to spot. During the NIMDA (I think) attack, their security bods posted the offending code and even then most people couldn't see it until it was explained.

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Joke

Re: Risk Management

"This vulnerability is present in 7, 8, 10 .."

How can you be expect an average CTO to trust your assessment if you are unable to count to 10?

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Re: Risk Management

"Can you explain to me, with consideration for any contractual terms one might agree to in the EULA, how that proposal would work?"

It transpires that MS were very quickly able to knock out a patch for this vulnerability. They must finally have realised that they had responsibilities. So they question arises - was this EoLed because it wasn't feasible to continue maintenance or because they wanted to herd those who could be herded into upgrading?

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Re: Risk Management

"What if such systems had been based on open standards for device control, document interchange, etc?"

You are, of course, correct. But note the past perfect tense in your sentence. We're not where we'd like to be or ought to be. We're where we are.

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Re: Risk Management

"The rest goes on wages. That's a political failure."

?

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Re: Risk Management

I'm only familiar with ISO13485 (Risk Management for medical devices) but there should be something out there for other critical information systems in health care. We failed as a society, to impose the necessary standards required to risk access use of systems for critical operations over a long period of time.

No wait, they raised it as a risk, realised the only way to mitigate it was a system change, requested the funds, and had it refused by Hunt. The blame must lie with him or whoever refused it.

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Devil

Re: worthy of mention

"On stand-alone PC's, ensure you have an adequate AV solution"

The problem with this is that the signature for any new malware won't be available until the target has been released

and this:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/09/microsoft_windows_defender_security_hole/

where having "Defender" running to scan things is likely to create MORE problems than it solves...

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