Why I haven't begun to be nasty to Netscape (was Re: The Next Hack)

Perry E. Metzger perry at piermont.com
Sat Sep 23 12:35:32 PDT 1995

Jeff Weinstein writes:
>   What else do you hope to gain by breaking a server key?  I think
> the point has been made.  Is there anything else that you would
> reasonably expect that we would do in response to a server key
> being broken that we have not already done?

Well, I don't know what the point was -- I don't think its a useful
effort -- but I would like to make the following comment.

One problem I've had is that this isn't some toy being built at NCSA
any more -- its something that lots of real money depends on. If I
treated my security critical code for my wall street clients the way
you guys have treated a lot of your code, I'd expect to be blackballed
and never work at anything more lucrative than shoe-shining again in
my entire carrer. You've all been giving the very standard "We're
overworked -- we didn't know -- I didn't look at that" sort of
answers. Thats all fine and well -- but when the money gets stolen or
the plane crashes it isn't good enough.

Code like this has to be treated with enormous seriousness. That means
code reviews. That means people follow systematic security proceedures
-- and thats not just in the "security code" because that isn't where
the break will come. It means that there are coding standards. It
means people break their backs very very seriously checking everything
and rechecking it, and then torture testing it. You folks are still
operating as if you are a garage operation when it comes to this
stuff, even though you are selling commerce servers that people depend
on for their business to operate.

You guys have gotten off quite lightly -- you screw up in a way that
could have cost your clients real money and all that happened is some
bad press and pressure to fix things. However, don't expect to be
treated that well next time. Those of us who are adults in this
business expect that we won't get second chances if we fuck a client
good and hard, and you guys shouldn't feel as though you've got
another couple of strikes to go. As I said, if I fucked up that way
I'd expect to have my carrer permanently ruined. You got off *easy*.

In my part of the universe, which is very close to the part you guys
have started to tread in, people treat this stuff very seriously.

As it happens, I know of some places in the financial community where
people have started to act lazy. I'm expecting to see lots of people
lose their carrers when something bad happens.


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