Richard Clarke - Microsoft on the warpath against Linux

September 15th, 2010 - 04:13 am ET by High Plains Thumper | Report spam
The following is a scathing indictment on Microsoft's profit bearing
motives being more important than the security of banking, industry,
national governance, utility infrastructure, and people's livelihood.

Richard Clarke is telling the truth about computer security

* By Bruce Sterling
* June 10, 2010


Why has the national response to this problem been so slow? Lack of
consensus on what to do and fear of the “R-word”—government regulation,
Clarke contends. Then there’s Reason Number Five on his list, which
basically boils down to “Microsoft.” (((J’accuse.)))

“Some people like things the way they are,” Clarke obliquely observes.
“Some of those people have bought access.” Microsoft, he notes, is a
prominent member of’s “Heavy Hitters” political donor
list. Most of the list’s stars are trade associations. “Microsoft is one
of only seven companies that make the cut.”

The software giant’s largesse has shifted from Republicans back in the
Clinton antitrust days to Obama, he continues, but the agenda is always
clear: “Don’t regulate security in the software industry, don’t let the
Pentagon stop using our software no matter how many security flaws it
has, and don’t say anything about software production overseas or deals
with China.” (((That’s all true, too.)))

Clarke tries to be fair. He notes that Microsoft didn’t originally
intend its software for critical networks. But even his efforts at
fairness are unflattering. Microsoft’s original goal “was to get the
product out the door and at a low cost of production,” he explains. “It
did not originally see any point to investing in the kind of rigorous
quality assurance and quality control process that NASA insisted on for
the software used in human space-flight systems.” (((I would note in
passing that NASA is so freakin’ moribund and top-heavy that they can’t
deliver a manned spacecraft system.)))

But people brought in Microsoft programs for critical systems anyway.
“They were, after all, much cheaper than custom-built applications.” And
when the government launched its Commercial Off-the-Shelf program (COTS)
to cut expenses, Microsoft software migrated to military networks. These
kind of cost cutting reforms “brought to the Pentagon all the same bugs
and vulnerabilities that exist on your own computer,” Clarke writes.
(((That’s very much the case. If Turing was working against Nazi Germany
under today’s conditions, he woulda knocked it off with the cipher
machines and just mugged a few guys in Berlin for their thumb drives.)))

Floating i-brick (((It’s the truth, he didn’t make it up)))

The former White House advisor cites the 1997 USS Yorktown incident as a
consequence. The Ticonderoga-class ship’s whole operational network was
retrofitted with Windows NT. “When the Windows system crashed, as
Windows often does, the cruiser became a floating i-brick, dead in the

In response to this “and a legion of other failures,” the government
began looking into the Linux operating system. The Pentagon could “slice
and dice” this open source software, pick and choose the components it
needed, and more easily eliminate bugs.

Clarke says that, in response:

[Microsoft] went on the warpath against Linux to slow the adoption of it
by government committees, including by Bill Gates. Nevertheless, because
there were government agencies using Linux, I asked NSA to do an
assessment of it. In a move that startled the open-source community, NSA
joined that community by publicly offering fixes to the Linux operating
system that would improve its security. Microsoft gave me the very clear
impression that if the US government promoted Linux, Microsoft would
stop cooperating with the US government. While that did not faze me, it
may have had an effect on others. Microsoft’s software is still being
bought by most federal agencies, even though Linux is free. (((Everybody
does it, so it must be great.)))

The company took a similarly hard line towards the banking and financial
industry, Cyber War says, rebuffing access requests from security
specialists for Microsoft code. When banks threatened to use Linux,
Microsoft urged them to wait for its next operating system—Vista.

“Microsoft insiders have admitted to me that the company really did not
take security seriously, even when they were being embarrassed by
frequent highly publicized hacks,” Clarke confides. Sure enough, when
Apple and Linux began to offer serious competition, Microsoft upgraded
quality in recent years. But what the company did first was to lobby
against higher government security standards. (((Of course they did
that. By now, though, it’s likely too late. Even the Red Chinese don’t
have it together to impose “high government security standards.” They’ve
sure got it together to riffle through the hard disks of the rest of us,

“Microsoft can buy a lot of spokesmen and lobbyists for a fraction of
the cost of creating more secure systems,” concludes Clarke’s section on
the software firm. (((Yes they can. But it’s even better than that: we
got online fundraising systems with more clout than a party apparatus,
so even our elected representatives have a weaker grip on reality than a
radio talk-show host. You think you’re gonna get a serious response on
computer security from people who think Obama lacks a birth certificate?
Richard Clarke is a relic from an era when American government looked
and acted like a responsible superpower. But his experience doesn’t make
him wrong about what he says.)))


As Ernie Ball found out, the most used government application, Microsoft
Office could be just as well served by Oracle OpenOffice under Linux
without any losses in productivity.

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#1 DFS
September 15th, 2010 - 09:43 am ET | Report spam
On 9/15/2010 9:41 AM, nessuno wrote:

You'd think that if Linux were as unreliable as DFS and the other
trolls make it out to be, Microsoft wouldn't be so paranoid about it.

What do any of us "Wintrolls" have to do with Microsoft?

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