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Tuesday, 26 November 2019 11:34

Satya Nadella forgot about ransomware – and the AFR did not remind him

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Satya Nadella forgot about ransomware – and the AFR did not remind him Pixabay

Last week, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella visited Australia and it is fair to say that he received such a lot of puffs in the media that he could well have thought he had landed in a bakery.

Local scribes completely forgot that Nadella heads a company that is responsible for all the ransomware attacks the globe has seen. They also forgot that Nadella is loath to give up US$200,000 — a paltry sum for Microsoft — which the company is getting from providing services to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement through GitHub.

Journalists — or perhaps stenographers would be a better term — from the Australian Financial Review had their tongues hanging out all week as they praised Nadella to the skies, with their puffs extending to five long articles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

No-one had anything even approaching a tough question for the soft-spoken Nadella, a man who is very careful to avoid talking about Windows. Coming from a land that produced four of the better spin-bowlers — Bishen Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan — Nadella has embraced these wizards in one respect: the art of spin.

Nadella will wax lyrical about ethics, Azure, the cloud, the influence that technology firms wield, ad infinitum. But ransomware? Never.

One can write ransomware for operating systems other than Windows – macOS, Linux, Android, iOS and the BSDs. But they are of no use to an attacker unless one can gain administrator status on a machine.

Windows has numerous components, all part of the operating system, which cannot be removed and are vulnerable. It is probably the main reason why Nadella does not mention the word Windows these days.

Why, the company has even ditched its own operating system when it comes to mobile phones – next year, Microsoft will be releasing a phone that runs Android. This is the ultimate condemnation of Windows, something like a man disowning his own child.

But again, why do journalists give Nadella a free pass? They seem to be glass-eyed when they confront anyone who has made a few millions.

No doubt, these individuals carry visions of being invited to Redmond. Journalists have no power of their own so they love to be seen with the powerful. Most of them, that is.

Windows ransomware has caused untold misery and huge losses to many companies, with the Norwegian firm Norsk Hydro being perhaps the most prominent recent example.

And nobody has yet forgotten the chaos caused by the WannaCry ransomware that hit the globe in May 2017.

Security firms are content to sit by, rub their hands with glee and bank all the profits that roll in from servicing companies that continue to run Windows. They will be the last people to complain.

The fact that Nadella does business with ICE, an agency that that separated infants from their parents at the US-Mexican border gives one a better indication of the values and ethics he espouses, rather than all the AFR sludge.

That august publication should simply hang its head in shame.

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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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