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Thursday, 22 October 2020 10:40

Hint to Brad Smith: getting rid of Windows will halt most cyber attacks

Brad Smith has the power in his hands to reduce cyber attacks across the world if he really wants to. Brad Smith has the power in his hands to reduce cyber attacks across the world if he really wants to. Courtesy Microsoft

Microsoft president Brad Smith has called for the barrage of cyber attacks on democracies — not other countries which also face the same issue — to be called out and stopped.

Smith, who made the comments at the so-called Atlantic Future Forum, failed to mention that he could with one stroke get rid of the target of a majority of the attacks by jettisoning Windows from his company's portfolio.

But Smith appeared to be convinced that only the enemies of the US — today's list of evildoers is Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — were the problem.

He claimed the “hacking and weaponising” of private emails and disinformation campaigns posed the greatest threats. “I do believe it’s one of the greatest risks to the protection of our democracies today.”

Much of that weaponising is done through ransomware attacks which are carried out exclusively on Microsoft's flagship product Windows, one from which it earned US$20 billion (A$28.1 billion) in the last year, according to the company's 2019 annual report.

He made no mention of what the NSA, which has a bigger cyber budget than the next 10 countries on the list, was doing and whether it was indulging in any attacks on other countries.

Which, doubtless, are also cyber attacks. But it could be that Smith sees American attacks as good, and attacks by other countries as evil. After all, he is an American and is, no doubt, caught up in the myth of American exceptionalism.

Some of his quotes at the forum were hilarious. “We’re living in this period of time that is certainly not necessarily war but doesn’t feel entirely like peace either,” he said. “It’s this grey zone where we see these constant cyber attacks.

“Five years ago, I think we thought about this principally in terms of attacks on, say, conventional infrastructure or our military capabilities, but today I think it’s just become an onslaught on democracy itself.”

But then the emperor never likes to show that he is not wearing clothes.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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