Microsoft, stealth bombing and the hacker challenge

Games people don't play

Usually, Microsoft is PR-adept when it comes to dealing with its customers and the media. But when it comes to understanding hackerdom, it hasn't a clue. Last Tuesday, Microsoft challenged hackers to attempt to break the Windows 2000 + IIS security system, and was foolish enough to hope that it would generate positive publicity and provide some free feedback. It set up what it called some "ground rules", as though it was some jolly game in which the participants would play for the sake of the game, but of course, both sides cheated. Naturally the server went down soon after it was made available, and all manner of other problems arose. Windows 2000 is only in beta and, judging by the problems that were seen, it will be in beta for a wee while yet until it has at least a modicum of resilience. Microsoft's spinmeisters are exercising their black arts on another hacker/cracker security image. This is the tale of the Back Orifice 2000 Trojan horse produced by the Cult of the Dead Cow. Microsoft would have us believe that stealth software is intrinsically evil and performs "malicious actions". But as cDc pointed out, the same stealth principles are included in Microsoft's Systems Management Server which, we recall, caused all manner of problems when NatWest was trying to use it for roll-outs, assisted by highly-paid Microsoft consultants who could not get it to perform properly. It's worth remembering that the guys wearing the white hats are the hackers. What a pity that their considerable talents are not put to more positive use -- although warning the world of serious software deficiencies is at least a public service. It's also worth noting Microsoft's record on stealth software. In 1995, Microsoft produced a registration wizard for Windows 95 that, if used online, allowed Microsoft to check covertly what rival (and MS) software was loaded on the PC. The information was used of course for Microsoft's marketing purposes, and -- who knows -- for policing illegal copies of Microsoft software. The adverse publicity from this dark episode made Microsoft squirm with embarrassment. ® See also LinuxPPC mounts hack challenge as MS fails to tempt crackers

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