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Bell Labs or Microsoft security?

  • From: Sean Donelan
  • Date: Wed Jan 29 03:48:10 2003

On Tue, 28 Jan 2003, Steven M. Bellovin wrote:
> They do have a lousy track record.  I'm convinced, though, that
> they're sincere about wanting to improve, and they're really trying
> very hard.  In fact, I hope that some other vendors follow their
> lead.

Of course we need to be honest with ourselves and recognize this has
been going on for a long time before Microsoft was even a glimmer in
Bill Gates eye.

Multics security. Bell Labs answer: Unix. Who needs all that "extra"
security junk in Multics.  We don't need to protect /etc/passwd because
we use DES crypt and users always choose strong passwords.  We'll make
the passwd file world readable so we can translate uid's to usernames.
Multi-level security? Naw, its simplier just to make everything Superuser.

FORTRAN/COBOL array bounds checking.  Bell Labs answer: C. Who wants
the computer to check array lengths or pointers.  Programmers know what
they are doing, and don't need to be "constrained" by the programming
language. Everyone knows programmers are better at arithmatic than
computers.  A programmer would never make an off-by-one error. The
standard C run-time library.  gets(char *buffer), strcpy(char *dest, char
*src), what were they thinking?

>  My big worry isn't the micro-issues like buffer overflows
> -- it's the meta-issue of an overall too-complex architecture.  I
> don't think they have a handle on that yet.

The strange thing about complexity is its much harder to design a "simple"
system than a Rube Goldberg contraption.

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