PACKET RAT

The Rat XPlains why he just says no

R. Fink

It came as no surprise to the Rat that there's yet another big security problem with Microsoft Windows. Considering how many patches he's had to apply to Windows 2000 on his agency servers over the last year, he'd be surprised if a new Windows problem didn't rear its ugly head at least every other month.

The latest gaffe, in the allegedly bulletproof Windows XP, was a doozy. Software hooks for UPnP, otherwise known as Universal Plug and Play, left the operating system wide open to hijacker control.

'Anything with a contraction in its acronym is best avoided anyhow,' sneered the cyberrodent.

Fortunately, at least the portions of the agency networks under his technological dominion were unaffected'because he refuses to let XP in the door.

The wired one's ironclad systems standardization process includes punitive disk wipes of systems with unapproved OSes or software. That has succeeded in crushing resistance from the techie-wanna-bes who've tried sliding the OS in under his radar. And the incompleteness of XP system testing has squelched complaints from his superiors'that, and the fact that the Rat keeps coming up with better things to spend the IT budget on.

'XP stands for 'extra putrid' as far as I'm concerned,' the Rat explained to his department head recently. 'Not on my watch, not on my ship, not in my agency.'

Likewise, he has successfully resisted Windows 98 and Windows Me, which are also vulnerable to the attack. Of course his resistance there mostly came from having to pay for bug patches disguised as upgrades.

So far, his judgment has been validated by events. The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center has recommended disabling UPnP rather than applying the patch Microsoft cooked up last month.

The whiskered one has decided to freeze the upgrades of his PC population at Windows 2000 Professional, figuring that Microsoft is a few years ahead on killing all the bugs in that OS.

With the Microsoft antitrust settlement stalled for the moment'though parliamentary maneuvers by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) apparently stopped any potential Senate comment from affecting the Justice Department's position'the wirebiter has been feeling even more intransigent.

'Here's the real threat of the OS monopoly,' he griped to his minions after getting word of the latest bug. 'Microsoft doesn't feel compelled to actually ship out tested and working software. When it can go through the motions of building an entirely new operating system every few years and then put the screws on users to upgrade, who needs to do any actual software engineering, anyway?'

The furry one's minions dared not contest his point of view when he was clearly in the zone. Besides, they were all running Linux on their desktop PCs and Mac OS X at home, so they weren't about to argue.

Geeks don't let geeks do Windows.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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