WE'RE MAD as hell and we're not going to take it anymore, as someone once said in that movie.
So today, we take you behind the velvet rope of INQ to see exactly what its like to try and have a grown-up conversation with Microsoft over something important.
Yesterday, oft confused-with but, we assure you, completely different title The Register published an exclusive, claiming that the patch for Windows XP that could have prevented the crippling WannaCry ransomware was ready in February but wasn't released to the public as the only companies that get these updates now are those paying Microsoft extortionate fees for extended support.
This particularly ground our gears because Microsoft also wrote a scathing blog post criticising the worlds' security agencies for stockpiling information and fixes for hacks.
Earlier this week, we argued that perhaps it was Microsoft that had a moral and social responsibility to do more towards keeping WannaCry at bay, regardless of the age of the operating system.
To this end, we were interested in the El Reg story, and whilst we don't have the resources to do the same teardown of the patches that they did, we thought it would be interesting to ask Microsoft if it was true.
You will be aware that our relationship with Microsoft has been fraught at times, and we're occasionally accused of giving them too much of a hard time (though usually told we've gone too easy on them).
So to give you a flavour of what we have to deal with, and in honour of an El Reg trope we admire (but we're perfectly capable of coming up with out own ideas too, OK?), here is an email exchange between Microsoft PR and us.
Worth pointing out that this is no reflection of Microsoft's UK agencies or PR teams, or any of the individuals involved here, whose names we have spared. We recognise you have one of the most cruddy unenviable contracts in IT to deal with. So here we go then…
09.37 to: uk pr team
Wondered if there has been an official response to The Register claim that the Windows XP patch was written in February and not released?
Thanks - Chris @ The INQUIRER
10.31 uk pr team [actual name redacted]
Hi Chris, We don't have anything currently, but let us look into it for you and come back.This will likely need us to speak to the US, so may be later on this afternoon.
Kind regards [redacted]
Now at this point, it's worth pointing out that we have asked Microsoft time and time again for a UK contact as getting a quote in the afternoon for a story we're publishing in the morning is about as much use as a February XP patch in May. Ah. Yes. Anyway…
17.52 uk pr team [actual name redacted] (NB - this is 8 hours later. We could nearly have flown there to doorstep them. As it is, we're waiting to go home)
Following your query below, please find below statement from a Microsoft spokesperson
"To help mitigate the immediate impact of WannaCrypt, we took the highly unusual step of providing a security update for systems that are outside of mainstream support, including Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003. The benefit of these updates is very tactical and specific to this current situation.
"Security experts across the industry agree that the best protection is to be on a modern, up-to-date system that incorporates the latest defense-in-depth innovations. Older systems, even if fully up-to-date, simply lack the latest protections. For example, Credential Guard protection from Pass-the-Hash attacks, Device Guard for code integrity and Early Launch Anti-malware are just a few protections in Windows 10 that don't exist in the older system architectures.
"Windows XP is over 16 years old. Newer operating systems are more prepared to withstand today's cybersecurity threats." - a Microsoft spokesperson
^^^^ This. This is what makes us mad. Even when we sat Microsoft down in a room to talk about Updategate, we still got responses that sounded straight off a prepared statement.
17.54 Chris Merriman
Can you go back and ask them to answer the question, please. Was the patch written in February?
Thanks - Chris
18.13 uk pr team
I'll look into this and come back to you as soon as I can.
18.18 Chris Merriman
Thanks so much!
19.06 uk pr team
To come back on the below, please find below blog post where you will find further information regarding details of the patch.
(To save you from reading through this shitshow, it basically says how great Microsoft is for releasing the patch and how its a one-time-thing, except it's a two-time-thing because they did it a couple of years ago. Anyroadup…)
21.26 Chris Merriman (yes, INQ has no night shift, only insomnia)
So is that a "yes"? Microsoft policy seems to be to annoy journalists into submission. Sigh.
And so far, that's all they wrote. Now look, Microsoft, would you like us to say "thank you" for the patch? Because if it helps, thank f_cking you, your royal f_cking majestic majesties.
But when you wonder why we spend so much time criticising you? It's this. This attitude. This stuff matters. You have over 90 per cent of the world's computers at your mercy and we, the people have a right to know, and we, the free tech press have a right to ask on behalf of those who cannot.
So please... pretty please.... pretty please with sugar and a Surface Pro on top, get us a UK PR person who has the knowledge to answer our questions in a timely manner, and then get them to answer them. Properly. Or we are just going to keep assuming the worst and talking smack about you. OK?
Now. We'll ask you again. Did the patch get written in February and stockpiled, in the same breath that you criticised the NSA for doing the same thing? . Well? WELL? µ
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We'll stick with the dongle, cheers