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Oil Changes, Safety Recalls, and Software Patches

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Every few months I get an email from my local mechanic reminding me that it’s time to get my car’s oil changed. I generally ignore these emails; it costs time and money to get this done and I drive little enough — about 2000 km/year — that I’m not too worried about the consequences of going for a bit longer than nominally advised between oil changes. I do get oil changes done… but typically once every 8-12 months, rather than the recommended 4-6 months. On the other hand, there’s another type of notification which elicits more prompt attention: Safety recalls. There are two good reasons for this: First, whether for vehicles, food, or other products, the risk of ignoring a safety recall is not merely that the product will break, but rather that the product will be actively unsafe; and second, when there’s a safety recall you don’t have to pay for the replacement or fix — the cost is covered by the manufacturer. I started thinking about this distinction — and more specifically the difference in user behaviour — in the aftermath of the “WannaCry” malware. While WannaCry attracted widespread attention for its “ransomware” nature, the more concerning aspect of this incident is how it propagated: By exploiting a vulnerability in SMB for which Microsoft issued patches two months earlier. As someone who works in computer security, I find this horrifying — and I was particularly concerned when I heard that the NHS was postponing surgeries because they couldn’t access patient records. […] I imagine that most people in my industry would agree that security patches should be treated in the same vein as safety recalls — unless you’re certain that you’re not affected, take care of them as a matter of urgency — but it seems that far more users instead treat security patches more like oil changes: something to be taken care of when convenient… or not at all, if not convenient. It’s easy to say that such users are wrong; but as an industry it’s time that we think about why they are wrong rather than merely blaming them for their problems.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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