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RE: Security and EOL issues
From: "Donald N Kenepp" <don () videon-central com>
Date: Sun, 15 Jan 2006 18:17:34 -0500

Hi Jeffrey,

  Perhaps Steve's analogy does not fit the case perfectly.  Analogies
usually break down at some point.  Your analogy of asbestos also has major
faults.

  Asbestos was bad for us from the beginning.  The mistake was hidden for as
long as possible.  All this legacy software was fine to use until someone
else looked as hard as they could to find a problem and then exploited it.
Without discovery of the problem, asbestos still would have killed people.
Without the malicious coders, older software's security would be just fine.

  By your definition, as long as someone is using the manufacturer's
product, the manufacturer is liable for that person's usage of their
product.  This is not actually the case.

  In new products, we see a product recall, with free replacement or repair.
This is essentially one part of service packs.  In legacy products, we see
them removed from the shelves, often replaced with a better product.  You
cannot purchase Windows NT 3.11 from Microsoft anymore, just like you cannot
purchase a Model T.  Ford is no longer responsible for your safety if you
choose to still drive a Model T.  They aren't responsible for your safety if
you choose to drive a car without safety glass, breakaway steering wheels,
or seatbelts.

  At what point are you willing to say that because Microsoft has removed
Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98, and Windows Me from the shelves, because they
have declared these products EOL with an extended support grace period, and
because they have given warnings about their core security design being
outdated by widespread availability of current malicious software
technology, that Microsoft is no longer responsible for your insistence on
using that legacy product?

  Would you expect a security company to still be liable for your home after
they have noted their outdated model security system has a security box that
is no longer sufficient since a tool has been developed to break in that is
now readily available to neighborhood thugs?  Should they still be liable
when their outdated security system has been removed from the shelves and
labeled as EOL for several years?  Should they still be liable if their
outdated security system has been replaced on the shelf by a new security
system for which you can obtain a discount on installation since you are
being "forced" to upgrade rather than trying to patch the old system?

  Would you expect every car company to develop and offer free OEM upgrade
kits to electronic locks and satellite tracking systems for their outdated
models with locks and windows susceptible to coat hangers or else be liable
for the theft of your car?

  Should the car companies have to replace your electronic key every time
someone builds and distributes a new scanner which breaks their encryption,
or should they be responsible for attempting to resolve this issue on new
cars and try to stay one step ahead of the bad guys for a little while, lest
they lose new buyers?

  At what point is it the consumer's fault for insisting on using something
outdated, no longer available from the manufacturer, and proven to be easily
compromised by advances in the anti-security field?
 
  Stop trying to lock your door with the same old hook and loop just so you
can complain that the people who sold you your home should ship you a
deadbolt for free.

  Sincerely,
    Donald


-----Original Message-----
From: Jeffrey F. Bloss [mailto:jbloss () tampabay rr com] 
Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2006 8:17 PM
To: security-basics () securityfocus com
Subject: Re: Security and EOL issues (was RE: WMF Exploit Patch released)

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On Tuesday 10 January 2006 02:41 pm, Steveb () tshore com wrote:
Hi all,

I must weigh in on this with an analogy.  Asking software companies to
offer free patches to software whose core technologies are considered
out of date by the mainstream industry is like asking Ford Motor company
to offer free airbag installations in all 1920 vintage automobiles.

Not really, for a couple of reasons.

If a flaw exists in a piece of software a "core" technology must exist too. 
1920 era vehicles lack the modern electrical systems and physical features 
that allow air bag installation without extensive modification to the 
automobile itself. A software patch or bug fix, by definition, is something 
that only modifies an existing "part". Your analogy would be more like 
expecting Microsoft to upgrade Notepad so that it was identical to Word.

Installing air bags requires that the automobile manufacturer design, test, 
and produce the upgrade. As does a software patch. But in the automobile 
scenario no typical end user is going to be able to order the parts and 
perform the work themselves. Unlike software patches. There's an entire 
"implementation" phase of fixing automobiles that simple does not exist in 
the world of software. In fact, as we just saw first hand the fix can be 
manufacturered, packaged, and implemented at little or no cost at all. Even 
by third parties. ;) 

The rest of the capitalist world protects themselves from such
expectations in the form of limited time warranties.  Why should the
software world be any different?

This too is a flawed analogy. We're not talking about adding features or 
functionality, or fixing something that wears out through normal use. We're 
talking about fixing flaws and errors. The capitalist world most definitely 
does find itself liable for problem in products that are no longer
supported. 
A glaring example would be asbestos.

If a significant number of people still drove 1920's era vehicles, and a
major 
design miscalculation like wheels falling off due to the usage of superballs

instead of ballbearings were discovered, it's a pretty safe bet Ford would
be 
"patching" a significant number of their 1920's era automobiles.

Yes, it's a silly example, but the point is that product vendors are 
accountable for their mistakes long after their advertised warranties
expire. 
If a flaw that impacts the end user's "safety" is discovered, a manufacturer

is almost always held accountable and required to make things right.

Why should the software world be any different? :)

- -- 
Hand crafted on January 12, 2006 at 19:35:31 -0500

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
                                  -Groucho Marx
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---------------------------------------------------------------------------
EARN A MASTER OF SCIENCE IN INFORMATION ASSURANCE - ONLINE
The Norwich University program offers unparalleled Infosec management 
education and the case study affords you unmatched consulting experience. 
Tailor your education to your own professional goals with degree 
customizations including Emergency Management, Business Continuity Planning, 
Computer Emergency Response Teams, and Digital Investigations. 

http://www.msia.norwich.edu/secfocus
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