Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Microsoft Security Government News

Microsoft To Get Malware Bailout In Germany 226

Posted by kdawson
from the you-broke-it-you-fix-it dept.
hweimer writes "The German government plans on paying to set up a call center to help Windows users with malware infections. I think this has the effect of being a malware bailout for Microsoft, discouraging them and other software companies from writing better code and giving users little incentive to switch to more secure alternatives. How much government money is needed to run the call center is also not revealed." The call center, running in cooperation with ISPs (but not manufacturers), is envisioned to have a staff of about 40.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft To Get Malware Bailout In Germany

Comments Filter:
  • Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @05:36PM (#30370680) Journal

    I think this has the effect of being a malware bailout for Microsoft, discouraging them and other software companies from writing better code and giving users little incentives to switch to more secure alternatives.

    I have to disagree with that. Malware problem is usually because of user stupidity. Like any other OS, you can run Windows securely if you don't do stupid things.

    The thing is, as we don't care so much about how to properly feed, exercise and clean ponies, normal people don't care so much about computer security. They just want to do their thing. But now they would have a place they know they can seek help from, and who are giving helpful instructions how to not get infected anymore and how to solve their problem. Maybe those hints stick, maybe not, but at least they can get help with the problem (without calling over our fellow slashdotters all the time!)

    But what is an interesting piece in the article (and somewhat worry-some)

    Before the plans are implemented, however, a decision needs to be made on what sanctions customers who decline to cooperate with their ISP can be subjected to. According to an eco project manager, quoted by the dpa, "Anyone surfing without proper anti-virus software is endangering other web users, in the same way that a car driver driving with faulty brakes is endangering other road users."

    I'm sure Symantec will hurray for that, but I don't want someone push an av software down my throat that I don't even need. Even less on my linux server. I really hope it only means those users who have been identified by the ISP to be sending spam out.

    But the bottom line is, it's not a "bailout" for Microsoft. Malware goes where the users and money are and any kind of better code or secure alternatives cannot go around user stupidity. Linux is mostly secure from malware because the users generally are more geeky than the casual users on Windows and don't just random stuff from the internet. Repositories also help with this, but if Linux ever gained any actual desktop marketshare and casual users, the 3rd party applications/games/whatever that people want would be downloaded from the internet just the same way as on Windows. But any (good) Linux sysadmin knows there been worms in Linux too and remote hacks are commonplace if the system isn't properly secured (and casual users just wont do that).

  • Re:Dumbfounded (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @05:41PM (#30370744) Homepage Journal

    This is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. Is this just a government make work project or something?

    My income is based on government make work projects you insensitive clod!

  • Re:Not really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @05:44PM (#30370772)

    1. This isn't the role of government.
    2. No matter how much the apologists bray, the fact is that Windows has the most infections. The proof is in the pudding! Yes, user stupidity contributes to that... but it ignores deep design flaws in Windows itself! Will the infections ever go toward zero even with the best designs but dumbest users? No. But it sure doesn't excuse it being in the other extreme for Windows.

  • Re:Not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CaseCrash (1120869) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @05:44PM (#30370786)
    Thanks for pointing out something actually interesting from the article and relevant to us /.'ers

    As it is, the summary reads "A government decided to do something to help their less computer-savvy citizens. Here's my rant against microsoft with no bearing on reality. Please go to my blog."
  • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @05:51PM (#30370870) Journal

    1. This isn't the role of government.

    I'd normally be the first to agree, but isn't a large portion of malware used for criminal activity? Identity theft, botnets that engage in DDoS extortion attempts, spam relays, phishing, etc, etc. It seems to me that law enforcement (i.e: government) has a legitimate interest in reducing the number of malware infections that are out there.

    Of course, a call center filled with follow the script support drones probably isn't the best way to go about doing that.......

  • by mseeger (40923) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @05:57PM (#30370956)

    Hmmm..... Neither headline nor summary fits the news. Nothing in the quoted article mentions windows. The article itself is focussing on a small aspect of what is being discussed. Some parts of the discussion would be very negative for Windows users. E.g. it is being discussed to disconnect users from the Internet who don't fix their PCs when attacks originate from them. I don't agree with a lot of things discussed, but they didn't do anything to deserve a /. summary like this.

    CU, Martin

  • Re:Not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gbjbaanb (229885) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @06:01PM (#30371036)

    Not really, governmental organizations are not so much interested in helping you clean up your malware-PC, but in funding the internet cops to trace and bring the perpetrators to justice.

    The callcentre script drones will probably be fine - they'll tell everyone to run spybot, install an AV system, run windows updates and then take it to a repair centre or reinstall if symptoms persist.

  • Re:Not really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by noidentity (188756) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @06:02PM (#30371044)

    I have to disagree with that. Malware problem is usually because of user stupidity. Like any other OS, you can run Windows securely if you don't do stupid things.

    Agreed; Mac users are no more bright, so they should set up a call center for Mac OS X malware infections too, though they could staff it less, perhaps with one person. Oh wait, Mac OS X doesn't have the malware level as Windows, even given the same level of user carelessness.

  • Re:Not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by natehoy (1608657) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @06:03PM (#30371050) Journal

    No, the article is pretty clear that the ISP will use patterns (not the existence or presence of antivirus, which they really couldn't detect effectively anyway) to determine if a computer is infected with a bot.

    The first step will be to contact the infected user and/or put up a custom web page that they will default to letting them know about the infection. That will be done by the ISP. The ISP will then refer them to the new advisory center to get the infection cleaned up.

    I think part of the advice would be "get some antivirus software in place" but I doubt they'd enforce it. Though I imagine there may be some sort of action taken against people who refuse to fix their malware issues and are sending out spam or attacks, which affect other people on the network and the Internet as a whole. That was where the worrisome part you referred to came in - but the German government hasn't decided IF they are going to impose sanctions, much less what form they would take.

    It may be as simple as shutting off their connection and mailing them a disk containing a free antivirus solution (AVG-Free, Avast, etc), then having them call to have their connection turned back on once the software is installed, or giving them access to a more limited set of URLs they could use to download anti-virus/anti-malware software then unlock the rest of the connection once the user called and stated that they had antivirus in place.

  • by earlymon (1116185) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @06:03PM (#30371052) Homepage Journal

    The ISPs should be free to charge end users rates based on the OS the end user is doing.

    Are you completely insane? (And I'm asking that in the friendliest voice.)

    Do you have any idea just how quickly that would turn into unprovable organized crime?

    Because after all, this scenario could happen very quickly: OS Company A goes to the ISP X, and cites incentives, rebates or outright kickbacks for lower rates for OS A - while OS B and OS C are surcharged. An especially effective scenario if OS Company A just happens to be the one with the most trouble - and the most cash to throw around to shore up market share.

    And OS Company A even helps the ISP with metrics to show that they're product is better / safer - whether it is or not. Example - 80% of all of one ISP's malware troubles come from OS A. (In the pretend-reality of my example, it could be coming from a handful of lost souls). But - OS A has a 90% market share - so it's mal-rate of 80% being less than the market penetration of 90% makes it .... better.

    And how would OS B or C make up for the other 20% of hits? OS A would simply have to put a purposefully-infected - heavily infected - OS B or OS C machine on that ISP's net - and the lie with statistics is complete.

    Like insurance rates for different drivers of different cars as end users present threats to the net based on their OS and experience the rates charged to support a malware elimination office should depend on what is being connected.

    You get much better insurance than I do. In the USA, they tell us that that's what the rates are based on - but in reality, nothing I drive never ends up with an insurance reduction.

    They take you for every nickel that they can imagine ways to justify and get from you.

  • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @06:10PM (#30371154) Journal

    Do you know what you're talking about? What prevents a keylogger to log a user password on windows that do not prevent it in Linux?

    Well UAC is built-in to the system. Windows just disables sending the keys to other apps while user is presented with UAC dialog.

    But what about when you're running a terminal screen on your X desktop in Linux and sudo to root. Linux kernel nor sudo can't disable the equivalent api's because X, terminal window and several other hooks need to be able to get them. That is a problem with a system build from blocks.

  • Re:Not really (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @06:22PM (#30371298) Homepage Journal

    Like any other OS, you can run Windows securely if you don't do stupid things.

    Like any car, you can parallel park an 18-wheeler, if you are careful enough.

    Sure, you can do it. Some OSes just make it easier, and some make it a challenge. I dare say Windos (any version) is in the later category. Heck, it usually comes with a fine selection of ad- and spyware pre-installed thanks to your friendly OEM.

  • Re:Not really (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @06:25PM (#30371330)

    I have to disagree with that. Malware problem is usually because of user stupidity. Like any other OS, you can run Windows securely if you don't do stupid things.

    Agreed; Mac users are no more bright, so they should set up a call center for Mac OS X malware infections too, though they could staff it less, perhaps with one person. Oh wait, Mac OS X doesn't have the malware level as Windows, even given the same level of user carelessness.

    People used to say this about FireFox as well. Until reported vulnerabilities started skyrocketing when it passed around 15% market share. You could assume that the codebase and security practices of FF devs suddenly deteriorated, or we can speak again if/when Mac's at least triple their current market share.

  • by dave562 (969951) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @06:57PM (#30371678) Journal

    I've been cleaning up other people's infected Windows machines for longer than I have wanted to. It seems like nine times out of ten, the only way to ensure that the computer is clean after it gets infected is to do a complete pave and rebuild of the OS. That level of complexity isn't something that a tech support person can walk an average user through over the phone. Forget about backing up the data beforehand, or re-installing the applications after the fact.

    I like the idea. The way that the article is worded is complete flamebait though. I think we can all agree that steps need to be taken to reduce the number of malware infected Windows boxes on the internet. Doing so makes the internet a better place for everyone. It just seems to me like the Germans are taking on an impossible task. Once a Windows box is owned, it stays owned.

    On a related tangent, I think things could be better if ISPs institute the equivalent of a "good driver discount". Give the owners of clean computers a discount on their monthly service fee. I'm not an economist, but it seems like it would need to be enough of a discount to cover the cost of having a "professional" setup the computer right in the first place. I see advertisements where I live that claim to clean malware infected computers for $30-50. So a discount of $5 a month seems about right. On the other hand, if the discount isn't high enough, then the incentive won't be strong enough to encourage people to keep their computers clean. At that point maybe the ISPs need a stick, instead of a carrot. Perhaps throttling the connection, or re-directing to a subset of URLs for how to deal with malware infections.

  • Re:Not really (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao@@@hotmail...com> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @07:18PM (#30371904) Homepage

    The role of a democratic government is precisely what the voting citizens define it to be. No more, and no less.

    The full extent of that reasoning: if 51% of the people say the other 49% should be enslaved, the ballot makes it right.

    Hell no, that can't be right. The purpose of the government is to uphold every citizen's inalienable rights; and it must be as small as it can be while remaining capable of fulfilling that purpose. No more, no less -- with emphasis on the "no more" bit.

  • Re:Not really (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @07:34PM (#30372066) Journal

    The full extent of that reasoning: if 51% of the people say the other 49% should be enslaved, the ballot makes it right.

    Not really; note that I said "citizens", not "majority of citizens".

    In any case, show me a democratic government in which, if N% of people say that other 100-N% should be enslaved, they can't make it happen by legal means, for any value of N (keeping in mind such things as referendums, constitutional amendments, etc). U.S. is definitely not in that list, as its Constitution can be arbitrarily amended, given a supermajority - you could get slavery back tomorrow, or install absolute monarchy, if there was sufficient public support for it.

    The only western country I can think of in which the ballot does not ultimately rule supreme is Germany with its "immutable" Constitutional provisions (that guarantee the "fundamental democratic character" of the system of government and certain basic human rights). It's fairly obvious, however, that with sufficient support, Constitution is just a piece of paper - it won't help you against a revolution by an armed mob, and then whatever laws they establish will become the law of the land. So in the end, pragmatically, it's always tyranny of the majority - it may be just more or less veiled.

    The purpose of the government is to uphold every citizen's inalienable rights

    Who determines what rights are inalienable? What if 51% and 49% disagree?

  • Re:Not really (Score:1, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @11:25PM (#30373798) Journal

    I think that you know that I disagree. Linux does not have any form of autorun. Most distributions lack open ports. That's a lot of attack surface missing right there relative to Windows on a per system basis. After all, if your computer isn't listening over the network, it can't be compromised over the network by a remote initiator; if it isn't running a file on the root of a mounted share, CD or pendrive then it can't be automatically compromised by software placed in those locations (or mailed or dropped in the parking lot or in the Men's room at the clubs where your high-value targets hang out) without further user interaction. Then there are the thousands of object formats like images, spreadsheets and wordart that Microsoft seems to think should be embedded in every application. That's how you wind up with a buffer overflow in font rendering that gets system privileges. Even without these things the embedding of Turing Complete scripting languages in every application with hidden execution renders the Windows platform's security horrendous.

    Both can be rendered more secure of course. Here, for example, are some NSA recommendations for Windows [microsoft.com]. With good system administration by a skilled staff [nist.gov] it's possible to build an image and policies for either that can carry most users through a year without being compromised despite heavy online research and heavy communications on the part of the end user. I think we can both agree that this is not what's actually happening in the field.

    I argue that if Linux became as popular as windows that it would face security problems at a similar scale.

    This argument is beaten to death. Linux runs the Internet. There is no higher value target than the server that stores the files and databases for thousands of users or processes their credit cards and here market share is more evenly matched. And yet... where is the Linux equivalent of the SQL_slammer worm [wikipedia.org] that compromised 90% of all the vulnerable servers in the world in under an hour? Nowhere. The "When Linux is popular it will have problems too" story is just getting silly. There are more than enough Linux users both for commercial software vendors and malware vendors and they're both avoiding it like the plague. Kudos to your marketing team for making the former happen. I have to think the latter made that decision on their own, but perhaps the marketing does help, so thanks for that.

    Did you know that the Windows Malware ecosystem is in dollars actually far larger than the Windows market? I thought it odd too, but if you count time and money lost, development and marketing and sales on both sides (attack and defense), hardware and services, it's not even close. Maybe you're on the wrong side of the business.

    I'm going to summarize with a truism you should engrave on your desk: "Anything a program can do, another program can do."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @05:22AM (#30375276)

    Of course they won't. Root is only allowed to log in on tty1-6, not through X, right? RIGHT?

  • Re:Not really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jipn4 (1367823) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:55AM (#30386206)

    I'd normally be the first to agree, but isn't a large portion of malware used for criminal activity? Identity theft, botnets that engage in DDoS extortion attempts, spam relays, phishing, etc, etc. It seems to me that law enforcement (i.e: government) has a legitimate interest in reducing the number of malware infections that are out there.

    So they should go to the source of the malware infections: Microsoft. Microsoft needs to be held responsible for selling software that is so susceptible to malware. They should not be allowed to disclaim responsibility in their contracts, and they certainly should not get financial support from the government.

    If Microsoft were held responsible for the damage they are causing with sloppy and badly thought out security, market forces would already have taken care of the problem: either they would have been sued into non-existence, or they would fix their software.

Scientists will study your brain to learn more about your distant cousin, Man.

Working...