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Re: Security and EOL issues
From: Matthew Schiros <schiros () gmail com>
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2006 16:50:55 -0600

I'd like to inject, for a moment, if I may.

I know I'm speaking from my point of view here, but I believe that
what I'm about to say is consistent with what Jeffrey and others who
have made similar points believe as well.

A belief that a good company, if Microsoft were one, would provide
either recalls (in the case of physical products) or updates (in the
case of software) to any of their products that suddenly exhibits
fatally flawed behavior (in this specific instance, an easily
exploitable flaw/intentional backdoor) is NOT the same thing as saying
that that company is somehow responsible for the damage that may
result as a consequence of that flaw (when dealing with EOL'd product
lines).  Microsoft is clearly in no way legally, or even ethically
responsible for maintaining EOL'd code, and they are CLEARLY not
liable for any damages that a system or network incur when people are
using a version of their software that no patch exists for.

That's not my point, and I don't believe that it's anyone else's
point.  What _is_ the point is that Microsoft was confronted with a
flaw in their software that spanned all versions, and it is slightly
irresponsible of them not to fix it in versions of their software that
they know to still be in use.  Ford doesn't support the Model T
because nobody drives a Model T, and because there are a myriad of
regulations governing what the automobile industry must do. 
Thankfully, those regulations don't exist in the software market (very
much, in most sectors), so instead of asking Uncle Sam to solve the
problem for us, we simply register our consumer dissatisfaction.

Is it equally irresponsible for networks to run outdated software? 
Yes, of course, more so.  However, I can think of a myriad of reasons
why you'd stay on legacy software in many environments, with cost
being an obvious one, but compatibility being another.  Compare that
with the cost that it would have taken MS to fix the problem in NT,
especially since they apparently took a fairly simple approach to it. 
It would have been a nice bone from a company that's been fairly
anti-consumer since it first flexed its muscle.

I hope this clears up some issues.  If I spoke for those who disagree
with me, I apologize.

Matt Schiros
On 1/15/06, Donald N Kenepp <don () videon-central com> wrote:
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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Hash: SHA1

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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The Norwich University program offers unparalleled Infosec management
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customizations including Emergency Management, Business Continuity Planning,
Computer Emergency Response Teams, and Digital Investigations.

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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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