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Why is the NY Times so Dumb About Linux and Windows?

| | Comments (18)

The New York Times seems hard-wired to rarely identify any Windows malware as Windows malware, but rather as "computer malware." They seem to share this illness with other people too, such as researchers and professors. Can it be that all these educated people who make their livings knowing things and uncovering new knowledge really don't know that there are other computer operating systems besides Microsoft Windows?

Their latest failure at making this distinction is China Orders Patches to Planned Web Filter, and they also missed the real story: since this censoring software is required to be installed on all computers sold in China, does that mean that Mac, Linux, and Unix computers are banned? Because it's a Windows program.

What about the government's own Red Flag Linux? Is this also a ban on homebuilt computers?

The biggest question for me is how the can the New York Times use up so many column inches without asking these questions?

The Professor Doesn't Get It Either

The article cites "Analysis of the Green Dam Censorware System" by University of Michigan profressor, J. Alex Halderman, who discovered that it has numerous flaws and introduces security holes. But he seems to have to failed to discover that it is a Windows program and won't work on other operating systems. He does not address the pitiful ease with which Windows can be compromised.

You may recall 53 Pages, 10 Months, 1295 Infected Hosts, 103 Countries, And They Still Can't Say "Windows Malware", in which I asked this same question for a previous New York Times article. I even wrote to the reporter, and received the type of non-reply that would make a politician proud.

Naturally I don't want to make any kind of generalizations based on a couple of articles, tempting though it is. So I used the New York Times search tool to look for "linux" and "botnet" and other related searches, limiting results to the last 12 months in the Technology section.

"botnet" returned some interesting results.

The Conficker Worm: April Fool’s Joke or Unthinkable Disaster? actually admitted that "The program does not infect Macintosh or Linux-based computers." So I searched on "conficker+linux" and found...no more articles that said "Conficker does not affect Linux." However, "conficker+windows" did find a few articles that actually admitted that it is a Windows worm, and a number of reader comments that were more informative than the articles.

Then I tried "virus+linux" and got 92 results. Most of them were readers arguing in story comments, and a few articles still beating the "Mac and Linux are not attacked because of lower market share" drum. I expanded this search to "All Results Since 1851" and found the exact same thing as far back as 2002.

A search for plain "linux" returned 10,000+ hits. I scanned the first few pages and saw news, such as Linux and the impact on netbooks and Windows, a whole lot of Linux vs. Windows, Android, interviews with Linux celebrities like Mark Shuttleworth, smartphones and other devices. Nothing about malware or security issues.

"windows+malware" returns 140 hits. For a twelve-month period. What do these hits actually consist of? Many reader's comments, and the occasional article like Attack of the Zombie Computers Is Growing Threat. This article actually admits, in a low-key way, that "So far botnets have predominantly infected Windows-based computers..." Way down in the article. Then it adds "...although there have been scattered reports of botnet-related attacks on computers running the Linux and Macintosh operating systems." Then it relates the huge scope of the problem-- "We are losing this war badly" -- and goes on to lament:

"Computer security experts warn that botnet programs are evolving faster than security firms can respond and have now come to represent a fundamental threat to the viability of the commercial Internet. The problem is being compounded, they say, because many Internet service providers are either ignoring or minimizing the problem.

"It’s a huge scientific, policy, and ultimately social crisis, and no one is taking any responsibility for addressing it,” said K. C. Claffy, a veteran Internet researcher at the San Diego Supercomputer Center."

It's rather brilliant how Microsoft have successfully positioned themselves as the victim in all this, and how it's everyone else's fault, and everyone else's problem.

Then I tried "microsoft+windows+defective", got 350 hits, and not one single article pointing any fingers at Windows. There were many articles complaining about defects in printers, broadband routers, and other peripherals.

Then "microsoft+windows+insecure". 44 results. I got through half of them, and again nothing in the articles, but only reader's comments.

Beware the digital zombies is a prime piece of Redmond propaganda. It paints a picture of Microsoft's "cybercrime investigators" as toiling heroically in obscurity against the evil predators that victimize poor Microsoft. Fave quote:

"Companies have realized that the only way to combat the menace of botnets and modern computer crime is to build a global alliance that crosses corporate and national boundaries. On Tuesday, Microsoft, the world's largest software company, will convene a gathering of the International Botnet Taskforce in Arlington, Virginia At the conference, which is held twice a year, more than 175 members of government and law enforcement agencies, computer security companies and academics will discuss the latest strategies, including legal efforts."

I'm in a betting mood-- who will bet me that not one person suggested "Don't use Microsoft's software"? Come on, please, I need money.

I spent a good part of the morning doing this and had to stop, so it's possible I missed something. But how deeply should a reader have to dig to get information that should be front and center: Which is "Windows is unsafe at any speed."


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