[linux-elitists] Can this person be helped?

Tom Clark tclark@requisitesystems.com
Wed Feb 8 11:38:29 PST 2006

On a LUG mailing list to which I subscribe, I enjoy the regular postings
of another subscriber who works primarily with Windows.  She seems to
make a point of posting a message whenever she encounters a non-Windows
system that has a security issue.  While I'm sure she means well, the
messages seem to have a "You Linux geeks think you're all that, but
you're not!" tone.  She never seems to post about problems with Windows
systems, but then again, how could she find the time?

This is really just a minor annoyance, but I am struck by the failure of
this person to get Linux.  Her point of view has been so strongly shaped
by Windows use that she just can't seem to understand anything else.  Is
there a way to reach people like this, or must we just write them off as
computing's lost generation?  Is there a twelve step program?


-------- Forwarded Message --------
From: Tom Clark <tclark@requisitesystems.com>
To: dlslug-discuss@dlslug.org
Subject: Re: [DLSLUG-Discuss] RE: Viruses
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 2006 14:00:47 -0500

On Wed, 2006-02-08 at 11:53 -0500, Anne wrote:
> My point was not that the MAC was infected nor was it that the Linux
> Network at another site was hit with the php vulnerability and was
> majorly trashed... My point was that all Operating systems have
> vulnerabilities.

But this wasn't an operating system vulnerability, was it?  It was an
application vulnerability.
> The MAC was not infected but had an infected file on it. It was a
> derivative of Sober.   

So in other words, the there was no problem with the Mac?

My point here is not to nitpick at Anne's message, but to highlight the
lessons of this thread.

1. Address your audience!  You're not going to get the attention of *nix
admins with talk about viruses, unless we're talking about influenza.  I
think that the word "virus" has a special meaning to Windows people that
it lacks for the rest of us.

And yes, it is possible to write a *nix virus.  Getting it to propagate
on any scale is quite difficult, so as a practical matter viruses are
not a threat.

2. There are several words that can describe systems that cannot be
safely deployed without the addition of a third-party utility like
antivirus software.  I like "defective".  Putting antivirus on a Windows
system is like putting an extra rear bumper on a '74 Pinto. Perhaps it's
best to stay off the road.  If my desktop machine could be compromised
by merely clicking on an email attachment, I would be furious and I
would expect a fix to be released *now*.  And this is software I get for

3.  Finally, it is true that virtually all computer systems face
security threats and must be operated responsibly.  Linux admins should
refrain from smugly laughing at other systems admins until they have
installed the necessary security patches, config'd their firewalls
correctly, and made sure that that new PHP app checks it's inputs.
Thankfully, they are well equipped to do so.


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