Skip to main content
Big Slapper Hits Town

Security, or should I say insecurity, once again rears its head. Slapper has been doing the rounds and then of course, there was the much-publicised launch of Nectar or more accurately, there wasn’t, as the Nectar.Com loyalty card site collapsed under the strain of registrations.

Unless you happen to be using Linux, then you have nothing to fear from a Slapper attack. But hold on a second, I hear you say, I thought Linux offered a more secure environment than Windows, so what’s this about is being handbagged?

In theory of course, Linux is more secure than Windows and as Eddie Bleasdale of Net Project points out, Slapper is a worm and not a virus and there’s a big difference, in that Linux is vulnerable, like any other OS, to implementation defects; in this case, not patching a known OpenSSL vulnerability, which left the door wide open to a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack which gobbled-up bandwidth rather than destroying data, as a virus might do.

Design flaws in the Operating System are a another story altogether and this, says Bleasdale, is where Windows suffers most because it was never engineered with a strong security model in mind, “the major difference being that the file structure doesn’t differentiate between executables and data”.

But if you happen to be responsible for Linux or even Windows Server implementations, you know you’re going to be shot at by someone and life today as an IT Manager, in some part mirrors the desperate defensive action of the soldiers defending a crashed helicopter in the film, “Black Hawk Down”. Microsoft, the Linux faction and indeed, even The White House, might stress that you have to stay constantly on top of the security updates and if you have a mixed-environment, Apache and Windows 2000 Servers, then you probably see perimeter defence as a full-time responsibility, as the problems, like the t0rn rootkit for attacking Linux implementations, keep on coming.

“No organisation”, say Eddie Bleasdale, can keep pace with the rate of change that Microsoft is imposing upon the desktop”, so while moving over to Linux might not offer perfect peace of mind, the future risks are considerably less than those associated with remaining in the same foxhole with Windows.

As you might expect, Microsoft’s Chief Security Officer (UK) Stuart Okin doesn’t share Eddie Bleasdale’s harsh view of the Microsoft world. He challenges Bleasdale’s statement on file structure as irrelevant, because Microsoft’s environment is controlled by the access control list. “It’s not about the vulnerabilities alone”, says Okin, “Its about how you manage them, how you deal with them and who is accountable to the customer”.

Okin insists that as a properly managed environment, following “best practise for people process and technology”, - nice soundbite Stuart - that Microsoft’s products are as secure as anyone else’s. “Look at the CERT.Org for evidence”, he says, “There are as many security advisories published for Linux as there are for Windows”.

If after reading this, you decide swapping one trench under fire for another isn’t a great idea, then who could blame you?


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

The Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…