The internet is all atwitter over a worldwide ransomware cyber attack by the name of WannaCrypt, or perhaps more aptly nicknamed WannaCry. Reports have come in showing the ransomware infecting computers on a global scale, and it seems to be targeting hospitals, delivery companies, police, and other infrastructure networks.
Luckily, the attack seems to be coming to a grinding halt now that one cyber security technician accidentally stumbled across the ransomware’s kill switch. So now that the threat of infection is beginning to die down, only one logical question remains:
Who’s fault is this?
Yes, my favorite time of any calamity is when we can start playing the blame game. In the case of WannaCry, fingers are pointing wildly, but a common target right now seems to be the Microsoft corporation. After all, it was the vulnerabilities in Windows 95, Windows XP and Windows 7 that were exploited and allowed the hackers to infiltrate millions of computers. Obviously, this whole thing is Microsoft’s fault.
Well, maybe not. As you may be aware, a startling number of business PCs run on either Windows 7, Windows XP, or even Windows 95. Companies may argue that it’s due to compatibility issues between critical software applications and newer operating systems, but the real enemy of change here is cost. Many businesses never had the money to upgrade PCs in the volume necessary to continue operating, while others simply never allocated the money properly. The cost to acquire Windows licenses can be staggering when you only have a few hundred PCs to upgrade, let alone a few thousand or even millions. In this case, smaller businesses would most likely not have the resources available to custom design new software (or reprogram existing software) to be compatible with new operating systems, but would not have had the number of PCs to upgrade. On the flip side, larger business may have had the resources to tweak the software, but would have faced a massive bill when each PC being used was jumped up a version.
But let’s look at a few numbers here. One of the biggest targets of the WannaCry attack was FedEx, a multi-billion dollar company that has multi-billionaire Fred Smith at the helm as CEO. In 2008, Smith pocketed a total compensation package of over $10 million between salary, bonuses, and stock options. That was one year. If we assume that 2008 was a fairly regular year for Smith, then it’s easy to see how he has amassed a fortune topping $4 billion.
At best, FedEx’s computers were running Windows 7, which Microsoft launched nearly 8 years ago, with extended support for the operating system expiring in early 2020. If they were running Windows XP, which hit PCs almost 16 years ago, then their support would have ended April 2014. Windows 95? A 22-year-old operating system which was cut off from Microsoft support at the end of 2001.
Are you trying to tell me that in 22 years, FedEx not once had enough money put aside to upgrade all their PCs?
Not all of the blame can be pointed at the companies who neglected to upgrade their software, however. Just most of it. Some does have to head back to Microsoft, in that they develop operating systems so frequently and with so many compatibility issues that it can make upgrading anything prohibitively expensive. Manufactured obsolescence isn’t good business, and Microsoft should know that. However, Microsoft has long been thought to be developing Windows into a Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) which operates on a subscription model similar to Office 365. Pay a monthly or yearly premium and you get a certain number of licenses that will be always be upgraded to the latest and greatest version. This SaaS alternative may lessen the hurdle of the cost of upgrades, but needs to be handled carefully to avoid disruptions due to software incompatibility.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not just Microsoft’s fault. Companies that allow their software to continually decay into obsolescence bear at least some of the responsibility. I’m going to get major shade thrown at me for this, but the same goes for consumers who either failed to update their PCs (intentionally or not) and consumers who willingly downgraded to Windows 7 on brand-new PCs. Windows 10 is not bad in the least, and if you’re afraid that Cortana is going to steal all your information, don’t be. Stop living in the past and #UpgradeYourShit
Oh, and the correct answer is it’s the goddamned hackers’ fault. Stop protecting criminals, how bow dah?