When Will They Ever Learn?

There was a recent article mentioning how fears of the Conficker meltdown are greatly exaggerated. In one of the discussion posts responding to it, someone said:

“So many headaches like this would be avoided if people had enough of a clue to NOT USE WINDOWS!”

Which prompted this idiotic reply:

“If everyone were using something else. Lets say linux or OSX Then whe [sic] worms would be tailored for those environments. As those environments are not in the majority, they are a poor choice for a botnet.”

At first, that seems like an innocent enough post. After all, it takes the position that we’ve all seen thousands of times already, in that, if OSX or Linux achieve a majority share in the future, they will see just as many viruses and malware as Microsoft Windows is currently experiencing. Unfortunately, I find that argument to be not just flawed, but completely stupid and uninformed and it makes my blood boil every time I see someone regurgitate such nonsense.

Usually, I just ignore these morons. In part, because there are so many of them out there that it would take a full time job to even make a small dent in their number. But this time around, I couldn’t let it go and ended up responding. What follows was my response. I thought you might find it interesting…

“They might try to tailor their junk for these environments, but it’s like the difference between a normal car (windows) and a car coated with teflon with a motion sensing machine gun on top (OSX/Linux), with the worms/viruses/malware being a type of graffiti paint.

Graffiti will stick pretty well to a normal car (and if you tend to stop in the more seedy parts of town than others, you have more of a chance of having your car “tagged” too), but it’s not going to be very effective on the teflon coated ones and the owner is going to have to be silly enough to log in as root to disable the guns so the criminals can get close enough in the first place.

The argument that the reason why windows is being attacked is because it has a majority share is an ass backwards way of thinking about the issue.

Windows is targeted because it’s “security” is inherently flawed, it’s security isn’t flawed because it’s being targeted. The fact that it has a majority share is just an added bonus for these people, but it has nothing to do with the underlying problem, (though it certainly does help the problem grow by orders of magnitude).

I’m reminded of Dan Dennett’s Ted Talk where he insightfully points out that, we don’t like chocolate cake because it’s sweet, it’s sweet because we like it.

Another way of looking at it is like this… Houses aren’t unoccupied, unalarmed and filled with artwork, expensive stereos and silverware because someone wants to break into them, someone wants to break into them because they are unoccupied, unalarmed and filled with artwork, expensive stereos and silverware.

If OSX or Linux took a majority share of the desktop, the problem wouldn’t shift like you are thinking it would. Granted, there would be an uptick in attempts and there will inevitably even be a few holes to patch up that were previously unknown, but there certainly won’t be an equivalent to the 100,000+ viruses that exist for Windows.”

Perhaps I was a bit harsh, but when people are being stupid it brings out the worst in me sometimes.


~ by ghendar on March 28, 2009.