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Houston Courts Shut Down By Malware

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the full-employment-for-compsec-types dept.

Security 126

Conficker is still at it: dstates writes "The municipal courts of Houston were shut down yesterday after a computer virus spread through the courts' computer systems. The shutdown canceled hearings and suspended arrests for minor offenses and is expected to extend through Monday. The disruption affected many city departments, the Houston Emergency Center was briefly disconnected and police temporarily stopped making some arrests for minor offenses. The infection appears to be contained to 475 of the city's more than 16,000 computers, but officials are still investigating. Gray Hat Research, a technology security company, has been brought in on an emergency contract to eradicate the infection. In 2006, the City spent $10M to install a new computer system and bring the Courts online, but the system has been beset by multiple problems. After threatening litigation, the city reached a $5 million settlement with the original vendor, Maximus, and may seek another vendor."

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Figures (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766881)

Texans and other U.S. Southerners are fuckin' morons.

Re:Figures (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766903)

correction: the South has a higher nigger population. Due to affirmative action and lowered standards (concepts popular among northeast liberals whose only interaction with black people is watching the cosby show reruns and watching will smith movies), many unqualified and barely literate niggers are given jobs where they can fuck up shit like this.

Re:Figures (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767461)

You're actually wrong about the black community being involved in the affair. The black population are mostly out cast from the white population, and live in small shacks down by the river. But occasionally come into white neighborhoods to steal things like binoculars and cameras from the white trailer trash types.

Nope, this is all the white inbred toothless morons of texas and the rest of the pole smoking assholes of the deep south, and their inherent stupidity and incompetence.

My idea is to kick the south out of the united states and let them have their confederate flag back and their wooden nickels. The north would offer citizenship to the black population as they really are smart, loyal and hard working people if given opportunity. Then every couple years or so just for good measure we will send our newly educated black friends back down to the south and kick the white trash's asses just on principal and so they will always remember just what inbred scum losers they really are.

Somewhere in texas is a God forsaken shit hole community that has just got their village idiot back

Re:Figures (-1, Flamebait)

painehope (580569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767643)

I don't know what dream world you live in, but I'd suggest you check the national crime statistics (as well as welfare and other socially detrimental measurable variables).

Speaking on a per-capita basis, almost all crime is committed by non-Whites. When you isolate it to felonies (particularly violent ones), the gap grows even wider. When you look at interracial crime statistics, it's mostly black-on-white. If hate crime laws were applied universally, then you'd see a similar trend. I won't even start on welfare or other social programs.

And, regardless of how stupid the original posters are, you're just as full of shit as they are. For your information, the majority of jobs in the Texas criminal system in our major cities that do not require a college education are filled by Black or Hispanic candidates.

And you want to talk about shitholes? Have you been to NYC lately? That's the biggest festering shithole I've seen outside of Chicago, D.C., New Orleans, or Southern California. Wow! All but one of those places are not in the South. Yes, Houston isn't exactly nice either, but there's a lot of bright, hard-working people here (of many different races and nationalities, I might add), mostly due to the petroleum and medical industries. We sure as fuck didn't get them from the Katrina refugees from "The Chocolate City" (once again, see crime statistics - it's been so bad that the mayor has offered "financial incentives" for "refugees" to return home - 3 years later, I might add). That's one Black sub-group that you're welcome to have - Houston sure doesn't want or need them.

If there were hunting licenses for humans, you and the two idiots you're replying to would be on my top 50 list.

And, yes, I know this post will be modded down. See my sig and don't talk with your mouth full, motherfuckers.

Oops (5, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766913)

It's amazing what can happen when you "lose" a few dozen pen drives with downadup at various strategic places.

Re:Oops (5, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767017)

Especially since today almost every computer is delivered with autorun enabled.

We have seen far too many malicious attacks due to the fact that someone thought that it has to be "user friendly". But some of that user friendliness is just plain annoying and raises the blood pressure. Just because I have a few pictures on my stick doesn't mean that I want to view them every time I stick it in.

The problem is that "user friendly" often means "attack friendly".

Re:Oops (0)

Kalriath (849904) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767189)

Actually no. Not speaking for anything else, but Windows no longer autoruns anything - it asks if you'd like to run whatever is on the disc. So this means that any issue there is user driven.

(By the way, to turn off that whole thing with the pictures, select "Do Nothing" next time you insert the stick and tick the "Do this every time" checkbox - if you don't have this, update Windows)

Re:Oops (5, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767373)

10 million zombies can't be wrong.

Re:Oops (5, Informative)

Sopor42 (1134277) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767447)

Just to clarify... the process is slightly more involved if the drive in question has "more than one type of content", even if fully up to date, b/c then Windows (XP) doesn't give you the "do this every time" option. For that you have to actually access the drive properties autoplay tab, select "mixed content" then "select an action to perform" and then "take no action" and finally apply/ok.

Re:Oops (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767771)

Thanks! The fact that 'do this every time' option has been disabled for a couple of my devices has been driving me nuts.

Cool (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768069)

Now all you have to do is get all 13,000 City of Houston employees to do that and that part of the problem is solved. At least it is for city of Houston employees. But then there's all the other installation methods including RPC. And the other million pieces of malware. And the millions of other computers.

It's easier just to get a mac.

Re:Cool (3, Insightful)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768403)

But then there's all the other installation methods including RPC.

If you're going to roll out a large-scale installation, you do the install on one box, get everything tweaked just the way you need it, then ghost it to the rest of the boxes. I'd think it was clear by now that turning off autorun should be one of the tweaks you do by reflex before ghosting.

Re:Oops (1)

rdnetto (955205) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768521)

Actually, he was referring to Vista - say what you want about its blaot and compatibility, it is way more secure than its predecessors in terms of UAC and changes like this.

Re:Oops (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768163)

Kalriath,
Um, I hate to tell you this but you are WRONG.

I just got done installing MS SBS 2k3 sp3 and I gotta tell ya I was FLOORED when I inserted a driver CD and the autorun on it came up.

Autorun, on by default, ON A FREAKING SERVER!!!

It also took 4.5 hours to install itself (I only had to change CD 3 times)on a 1tb partition on a quad core machine with 8gb.

Fuck this, I'm going back to Novell!

Re:Oops (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768943)

I don't know if my comment will do any good, as what I am about to say has been said in every story about conficker/downadup here, but here goes.

It is actually not possible to disable autorun by normal means. Autorun always runs, by design (Microsoft is still claiming that this is not a misfeature). It still runs, parsing the autorun.inf and performing every action up until the running an executable or autoplaying.

Saying that the issue is "user driven" is technically accurate but woefully misleading. Autorun will dutifully follow any directives in autorun.inf before the final step, including changing the appearance of the icon, context menu, and double-click behavior. So yes, it is "user driven", in that a user performs an action, but it is misleading because the action (right-clicking or double-clicking on the drive icon) does not behave as the user expects (i.e., it installs malware).

Yes, there are now patches for the double-click and context menu vulns (since last July). But the insane behavior of parsing autorun.inf remains. The only way to truly stop autorun is the hack described by US-CERT (there was a /. article on the controversy recently). It's described here [wikipedia.org] .

Summing up: it's broken, it's always been broken, and Microsoft says it's a feature.

Strangely enough, wikipedia has become a neat repository for knowledge about malware:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AutoRun [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downadup [wikipedia.org]

Do courts need computers? (4, Interesting)

yog (19073) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767065)

I thought courts were a sort of mecca for low tech methods. They use court stenographers, video taping is very limited, and it's all based on the spoken word. It's not like the prosecutor is going to talk through a Powerpoint presentation to make his/her case. Or do they allow this these days? I don't go to courtrooms very often....

From the article:

The $10 million effort by Maximus Inc. to bring the courtâ(TM)s activities online was immediately troublesome to judges, clerks and prosecutors and delayed court proceedings in 2006. After threatening litigation, the city reached a $5 million settlement with Maximus and may seek another vendor.

It sounds like this whole computerization effort was poorly executed from the get-go. Many such projects have problems, since they typically pit bumbling bureaucrats against shark-like consultants.

Anyway maybe they ought to take the database and just pull out the pending cases using ad hoc queries, and send the print-outs to the courthouse so they can get on with their work. This can't be rocket science here.

Re:Do courts need computers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767319)

This can't be rocket science here.

No, this is Houston. Rocket science is simple, but [their] databases are not.

Re:Do courts need computers? (4, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767565)

I thought courts were a sort of mecca for low tech methods.

Not true, at least for US Federal as well as many state and local courts.

They use court stenographers...

Who have been using computers for twenty years to my certain knowledge.

...video taping is very limited...

Video tape depositions are routine.

...and it's all based on the spoken word.

Actually it's mostly based on the written word. It is the court record that matters, and that means what the stenographer keyed into her computer in addition to the orders signed by the judge and the documents filed by the parties.

It's not like the prosecutor is going to talk through a Powerpoint presentation to make his/her case.

Yes, as a matter of fact, it can be rather like that. And many Federal courts require that filings be made in electronic form. Here is a link [uscourts.gov] .

Re:Oops (4, Insightful)

INT_QRK (1043164) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767593)

This may seem a little orthogonal. However, the municipal court system is the core instrument of government power to the average citizen. So, how does it ensure that a vendor doesn't place itself in a position to now "own" the court's IT, able to covertly violate confidentiality, integrity and availability of critical court records at will? Thinks of how a well-resourced entity like a drug cartel might have incentives to subvert a court system, becoming, in essence, an "insider" to the system. Certainly at the federal level agencies like the DoD, for example, also use private vendors (albeit highly vetted), but they also conduct extensive in-house testing throughout development and across the life cycle through via certification and accreditation regimes (e.g., DIACAP: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIACAP [wikipedia.org] ). Municipalities lack such resources and are at the mercy to a "low bidder," esecially one that doesn't need to turn a profit from the primary customer but is able to offset that in spades by secondary and tertiary "silent partner" customers. Should we consider, perhaps extending federal IT resources down to local levels?

Re:Oops (2, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767687)

> Should we consider, perhaps extending federal IT resources down to local levels?

And give the Feds complete control? I'll take the drug lords, thank you.

Re:Oops (1)

INT_QRK (1043164) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767787)

Understand your sentiment (and humor), but what about some federal security regime extended to the local level, a Common Criteria/NIAP-like consortium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NIAP) of private testers and labs that maintain a C&A system, with government controlled audits and oversight, for example?

Re:Oops (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767957)

After all, look at what a superb record the Federal agencies themselves have established.

No, thanks. All the necessary standards and information are already public. Centralization doesn't scale.

Dear Houston, (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766917)

I hear you have an opening...

Re:Dear Houston, (4, Funny)

cloakable (885764) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767223)

It's more of a gaping hole, it seems

Re:Dear Houston, (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767801)

where's the goatse rickroll when you need it?

Re:Dear Houston, (2, Insightful)

Faylone (880739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768343)

You never need it. NEVER.

no arrests for minor offenses! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766927)

is smoking weed a minor offense in Houston?

Re:no arrests for minor offenses! (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766957)

Unfortunately, no, it's not.

Re:no arrests for minor offenses! (2, Informative)

painehope (580569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767335)

Class B Misdemeanor, IIRC (possession under 4 ounces is a class A, but anything under a an ounce is class B). That's pretty minor. You'll generally get 20 days (and each "day" is twelve hours, so by the time you get to court, you generally have 5 days racked up) or the option for probation (never, ever take probation - you're just setting yourself up for failure). Just take the jail time, unless you have to be at work, in which case you bond out, go work, and you'll probably get time served when you show up to court.

Note, this is not from personal experience. I haven't been arrested with pot since I was 14, right around the time I quit smoking that boring crap.

Re:no arrests for minor offenses! (1)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768005)

Wait what? You have to go to jail for smoking and/or having pot in the US?

And i thought the fines here are bad.

Re:no arrests for minor offenses! (1)

jaavaaguru (261551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768235)

Only in some states... get a slap on the back of the hand and possibly a small fine here

Re:no arrests for minor offenses! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768269)

I was wondering if I can do the same in my municipality. All I have to do is:

1. Plant malware
2. Wait for desired effect
3. Go on crime spree
4. ???
5. Profit

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766939)

Someone's getting canned.

Re:Anonymous Coward (2, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767171)

"Houston, we have a problem..."

...Ducks... So sorry for that.

Freedom from ridiculous laws (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766955)

suspended arrests for minor offenses and is expected to extend through Monday

Wow, so for all of 2-3 days, Americans living in Houston can actually live without fear of being arrested for things that we shouldn't be paying law enforcement tax payers' money to enforce? Hurry up and smoke your marijuana, Texans! Quick now, before the law gets back on its feet and decides to poke its head into your private, personal business.

Re:Freedom from ridiculous laws (0)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767451)

unfortunately many people that smoke weed don't keep it private at all. if they did they wouldn't be getting caught now would they?

Re:Freedom from ridiculous laws (0, Troll)

Chris Tucker (302549) | more than 5 years ago | (#26769069)

Reading the diverse online police blotters, one must come to the the undeniable conclusion that pot makes you stupid.

Now, getting stupid in your own home is just fine. It when you get stupid outside, that's when you wind up fucking yourself badly.

Here in Boston, for example. [bpdnews.com]

Substitution exercise (1, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766965)

Houston court (Your mums PC), was shutdown by malware, and Gray Hat Research (You) were brought in on an emergency contract (Called up from the basement) to eradicate the infection (reinstall windows XP)

Re:Substitution exercise (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767133)

The difference is probably that you get to stay up late instead of getting $large_sum USD for the fixing...

MS Monoculture (4, Insightful)

NtroP (649992) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766983)

The monoculture strikes again! My heart is bleeding peanut-butter right now. Having all your eggs in one basket (especially Microsoft's) is never a good idea.

Re:MS Monoculture (2, Interesting)

Dega704 (1454673) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767153)

I completely agree. The IT world has long needed some diversity. People like those who wrote conficker probably love microsoft and their de-facto standards to death.

Re:MS Monoculture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768075)

What the fuck is "my heart is bleeding peanut butter" supposed to mean?

Re:MS Monoculture (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768811)

It's been recalled.

Gray Hat? (2, Funny)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766991)

Is Houston being smart by hiring a company called "Gray Hat [wikipedia.org] Research"?

Re:Gray Hat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767063)

Its just a name, get over it

Re:Gray Hat? (1)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767109)

But really, think about it. How did they pick the name?

Sample Scenario:

Co-Founder 1: I want to start an IT company. Want to join?
Co-Founder 2: Sure, that sounds interesting. What will our company be named?
Co-Founder 1: Let's go blatantly obvious.
Co-Founder 2: "Grey Hat Research" it is.
Co-Founder 1: Heh. Good guys finish last.

Seriously, what must they have been thinking?

Re:Gray Hat? (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767149)

Seriously, what must they have been thinking?

That they were... i mean wear grey hats.

Re:Gray Hat? (2, Funny)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767277)

Hah! I'll call mine "zebra-striped hats"...

Re:Gray Hat? (1)

SpockLogic (1256972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767299)

But really, think about it. How did they pick the name?

There's a lot of shades of grey between the Black Hats and the White Hats

Re:Gray Hat? (2, Funny)

pnevin (168332) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768719)

But really, think about it. How did they pick the name?

Red Hat was taken.

Easy fix to this. Use OS X. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767001)

Easy fix to this problem long term. Use a platform that the bad guys are unable to target for malware or viral attacks like OS X. Now all the effort in making malware-ridden U3 flash drives, making bogus parking tickets that go to bogus websites, or other social engineering will be all for naught.

Re:Easy fix to this. Use OS X. (4, Insightful)

iammani (1392285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767079)

Social engineering can work on *any* OS (even the OS certified by NSA) . It is the user that needs to fixed.

Re:Easy fix to this. Use OS X. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767167)

Yes, I agree. Some users really should be fixed.

Yes, in the veterinary sense.

Re:Easy fix to this. Use OS X. (1)

nsaneinside (831846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767343)

Some users really should be fixed [...] in the veterinary sense.

I don't see you volunteering.

Re:Easy fix to this. Use OS X. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767685)

Hey, I now have to deal with politicians, and it brushes off. I want things to be done to people that I wouldn't dream of allowing it to happen to me.

Re:Easy fix to this. Use OS X. (-1, Flamebait)

painehope (580569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767689)

Probably because he doesn't need it. If I hadn't posted, I'd mod him up just for giving me a new favorite saying about stupid users. And mod you down for sheer ignorant belligerence.

Or we could just have you fixed. I've long been a proponent of mandatory sterilization for people that prove they can't use their brain. Stupid people breeding is the single greatest threat to human civilization since we started feeding and housing them, instead of just letting them starve.

Re:Easy fix to this. Use OS X. (1)

nsaneinside (831846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767721)

I try to stay away from the elitist argument/viewpoint, since it tends to lead to some nasty holier-than-thou social delineations.

Re:Easy fix to this. Use OS X. (1)

maugle (1369813) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767999)

Perhaps, but somehow I doubt social engineering would be able to affect 475 computers as easily when they're using a non-Windows OS.

Re:Easy fix to this. Use OS X. (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768461)

That requires buying new hardware. Not in the budget. Much easier to justify an expensive consultant.

Besides, they may have some custom software that doesn't run under OSX. (Which excuse also works against Linux, BSD, etc.)

That would have been an interesting lawsuit (1, Funny)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767007)

After threatening litigation, the city reached a $5 million settlement with the original vendor, Maximus

IANAL, but I suspect defending yourself in court against the city (with the city representing the court) could be difficult.

Re:That would have been an interesting lawsuit (2, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767041)

> IANAL

This is very clear.

> but I suspect defending yourself in court against the city (with the city representing
> the court) could be difficult.

Companies routinely litigate contract disputes with governments. This case would be heard in state court.

Slashdot has really gone downhill lately. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767049)

This story has nothing to do with Australia.

If I ever want to read about places besides Australia, I'll go to another site, thanks.

How much longer are we going to have to endure the non Australia-centric Slashdot?

Where the hell is kdawson?

Re:Slashdot has really gone downhill lately. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767115)

+1 Funny Troll

Re:Slashdot has really gone downhill lately. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767917)

Where the hell is kdawson?

Um, my guess would be "Australia".

Which OS was infested? I bet I can guess. (3, Insightful)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767061)

I wonder, what operating system(s) were compromised by this infection?

Could it be -- say it isn't -- yet another outbreak of infestations on Windows machines?

If people haven't learned by this point not to trust Windows machines with anything critical, they deserve what they get. It's no longer a matter of ignorance as these things have been widely documented for decades.

Re:Which OS was infested? I bet I can guess. (2, Interesting)

utahtb (1449067) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767243)

Honestly, though, what can you do? Sure, you could put open source stuff in place of windows, but the business functionality just isn't there. The real trade-offs of business vs. security are vexing and not easy.

Re:Which OS was infested? I bet I can guess. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768315)

Honestly, though, what can you do? Sure, you could put open source stuff in place of windows, but the business functionality just isn't there.

How do you know that ???

Re:Which OS was infested? I bet I can guess. (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768469)

This is the US Government we are talking about, if they have the spare cash to throw away billions of dollars in taxpayer money in cooperate bailout/stimulus money, I'm sure they have enough money to improve OSS. Heck, just take about half what they spend in software licenses and use that to further OSS, sounds like a good trade-off doesn't it?

Re:Which OS was infested? I bet I can guess. (2, Interesting)

HiThere (15173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768483)

Which specific business functionality do you have in mind? I admit there are some. (Tax software comes to mind.) But if you aren't specific I can't be certain that you are being stupid, and must merely presume that.

There are reasons to choose MSWind. Some are even valid. I have a MSWind95 machine that I keep isolated from the net. But there aren't very many. And the ones that I most commonly hear about are just people being stupid and prejudiced.

Re:Which OS was infested? I bet I can guess. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768551)

Honestly, though, what can you do? Sure, you could put open source stuff in place of windows, but the business functionality just isn't there. The real trade-offs of business vs. security are vexing and not easy.

Seems kinda obvious, but I call "bullshit" on this one. Just which "business functionality" that the court would need "just isn't there" in, say GNU/Linux? Word Processing? Spreadsheets? Email?

Re:Which OS was infested? I bet I can guess. (5, Informative)

painehope (580569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767289)

Windows, of course. It's what every single computer that I've seen in any court, jail, or police station in Houston (and Harris County, which Houston is in) runs.

And I've seen more than a few...

Interestingly, courts are pretty technical down here. The employees are still as dumb, but if you're in Houston City Jail, you don't even see a judge or talk to anyone in person (other than Johnny Law). The pre-trial personnel speak to you via a telephone or a speaker in the wall of the room, you don't even see their faces in the newer city jail. Both jails the judges are linked in on a high-resolution screen, whether it's your actual court (for City, not County) or just a probable cause arraignment (which, not surprisingly, never releases anyone, no matter how ridiculous the evidence is).

Harris County is technical in the court, but if you're just talking to your lawyer in the court holding cell, you don't even see the inside of a courtroom.

Of course, Fort Bend County (where I live) is so non-technical it's hilarious. I was jammed up in their system over Thanksgiving (no bonds or releases on holidays - I was in there for a damn class C misdemeanor, and sat 3 days), and got a visit from my father. The moron cops actually used their network closet as a holding tank for prisoners awaiting room in visitation. I was alone in there at one point, staring at a dusty Cisco router that was at least ten years old, plus what could only have been their video system (which looked even older). I was so tempted to just rearrange cables...until I thought about how long it might take them to find someone to fix it, and how that might effect my release (which was scheduled for the next day).

Of course, the plus side to my county is that judges actually see you face-to-face, and will release you if it's a bullshit case. Much preferable to a high-tech system with no justice at all.

RTFA (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767357)

It tells you what they are running.

The previous reply didn't show up, but it won't let me re-post it unless I change it. So this part is just the change.

Re:Which OS was infested? I bet I can guess. (0, Redundant)

phulegart (997083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768033)

Did you know...
The Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool now removes Antivirus 2009 and it's variants? That means as long as people update Windows, they is a measure of protection offered. However, if people do not understand that they must make sure that Windows is up to date by actually running the update utility, how are they going to keep their system protected?

I currently make a living removing spyware and malware from infected machines. Did you know that the majority of people think that malware and spyware are the same as a virus? Did you know that the majority of people out there think that a Virus removal tool also removes spyware and malware? Every day, machines are brought in running XP that is still using service pack 1 or 2. People bring in machines that are running a copy of Norton that expired 2 years ago... and they think that they should still be protected, because they have Norton.

The only ignorance here that matters, is YOURS. As has been pointed out in many different ways... the problem is between the keyboard and the chair... not with the Operating system.

Re:Which OS was infested? I bet I can guess. (2, Interesting)

Sabriel (134364) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768321)

Sometimes the problem is between keyboard and chair, but sometimes that chair was the developer's. If the system had been designed properly in the first place...

I've seen enough machines where bloody Windows Updates has silently failed (or pegged the CPU) that I'd love to hit the idiots responsible for releasing it into the wild with a clue by four.

I mean, seriously. If you were responsible for Windows Update, knowing it would be integral to the safe and proper operation of millions of computers worldwide, how would you bloody well not feel criminally negligent for the piece of crap that actually came out of your department?

Of course we know what REALLY happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767091)

the defense attorneys have been looking at pr0n again.

Re:Of course we know what REALLY happened (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767709)

Generally it's the prosecutors who have offices in or near the courts. Defense attorneys are usually not city, county or even state employees, so their offices are rarely housed in court facilities and their computers are rarely connected to those networks.

But I'm sure Houston is going to be the one place in the country where that's not the case, just to show me up.

What a great way to bust out of prison (1, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767101)

Just write and spread malware that targets computers at the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice (along with everyone else's computers) on a date that's at some point into your sentence. Put code in the payload that searches for prison doors to open, in case we are infecting some controller they might be using. A long time ago before computers you had to tie four horses to the walls and bars of the jail and just try to pull the place apart without the ceiling collapsing on your friends' heads.

Re:What a great way to bust out of prison (1)

Ian Alexander (997430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767157)

Are you hoping that the guards will also be infected by your malware?

Re:What a great way to bust out of prison (3, Interesting)

painehope (580569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767403)

Hate to break this to you, but TDCJ is state jail and prison (two separate entities, only handles felons). Entirely separate from Houston City courts (which only handle class C misdemeanor sentences and traffic ticket fines - no one stays in City Jail longer than a week) or Harris County Jail (up to 18 months, IIRC, and still a separate entity). And the only thing your idea would do is cause a riot.

Not that it wouldn't break the monotony. But the chain link fences topped with barbed wire, armed guards, and mechanical systems wouldn't be effected in the least. TDCJ is a lot less technical than city/county jails. It's a prison, after all, not a local jail.

Re:What a great way to bust out of prison (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767485)

Hate to break this to you, but TDCJ is state jail and prison (two separate entities, only handles felons). Entirely separate from Houston City courts (which only handle class C misdemeanor sentences and traffic ticket fines - no one stays in City Jail longer than a week) or Harris County Jail (up to 18 months, IIRC, and still a separate entity).

You know, this is really Informative.

Re:What a great way to bust out of prison (1)

painehope (580569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767725)

Well, I do have some life experience that I won't be putting on my resume any time soon.

Now I'm pissed... (0)

painehope (580569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767125)

Or, rather, not. Pissed, as in drunk. This would be a great weekend to go out, get as drunk as I want, and not have to worry about spending the night in the drunk tank (Public Intoxication is a one-night stay in Houston, just plead no contest and you're out the next day).

But, no, I have to have a cold (just like about everyone else I know).

Shit!

I'm gonna get rich (1)

Cally (10873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767139)

...using Free software to fix this problem.

Maybe.

The Evil Empire Strikes Again (5, Funny)

CNothing (1164365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767147)

It's as if a thousand bureaucrats cried out "Houston, we have a problem" in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

City Employees Surfing at Work (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767301)

Ok, so if these computers were used solely for official business, there wouldn't be this big of an issue. Lower paid workers tend not to have computers or internet at home, so they use work systems for "surfing." No internet access and email should only be via highly filtered webmail. USB, DVD drives and floppies locked off with zero access.

I used to work in Telecom. Our biggest malware/virus issues were at E911 centers even when the computers were on a dedicated network without any non-911 access. The nationwide 911 system doesn't use IP, so the problems didn't come from outside each 911 center. Those folks were paid $8/hr by cities and were under constant virus and malware attack from workers bringing programs in on diskettes, CDs and USB drives.

The other problem is the lack of understanding that many municipalities have over computer system maintenance. Many localities are smart and cautious, while many others treat work systems like home systems and hope for the best. Some have decided to provide free municiple wifi internet access with the same network their police and emergency services use for remote access. fools.

Re:City Employees Surfing at Work (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768541)

Ok, so if these computers were used solely for official business, there wouldn't be this big of an issue. Lower paid workers tend not to have computers or internet at home, so they use work systems for "surfing." No internet access and email should only be via highly filtered webmail. USB, DVD drives and floppies locked off with zero access.

I can see this being a major no-go with the employees. What happens when they need to legitimately look up something on the web for their job? No CDs or USB drives can also be a major problem, what happens when the e-mail server is down for maintenance and someone needs to send a file? Etc.

The most logical solution would be Linux. Sure, no system is 100% secure, but show me a single major virus/worm outbreak on Linux that an ordinary (as in, not administrator) would be able to be infected with. The fact is, for all intents and purposes, Linux is ultra-secure, the virus in your inbox isn't going to run on it normally (now, if you wanted to run it in WINE, recompile it, etc it might) nor is plugging in an infected USB drive going to do anything. Yes, user error on Linux does occur, but unless the secretary is constantly in the Terminal, theres not much she can really mess up even if she desperately wants a puppy screensaver and the Simpsons as her mouse cursor.

Yes, some might say that Linux doesn't have all the business stuff yet, however, this being the government and being paid with by our tax dollars, surely they can use some of that 700 billion stimulus package to pay some coders to write what they want (and then of course release the source). But seriously, this would not have happened if Houston had been using Linux as the OS of choice.

RTFA (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767307)

It tells you what they are running.

Re:RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767859)

Conficker

This makes me want to convert all my machines (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767321)

back to Windows. Hmmmm, which flavor? I could choose W98, for it's lack of security model, or WXP (sp1) for it's failure to adhere to common sense security model, or Vista for it's infuriatingly intrusive security, or Win7 for it's unique beta insecurities. I KNOW!! I'll do ALL OF THEM AGAIN!!! (Who wants to be left out of the newest viral infection, anyway?)

Someone Sent me a virus once (1)

systemeng (998953) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767547)

But emacs opened it as a dump of a binary file. I was bummed that they couldn't take the time to send me a proper virus for my architecture.

See . . . (5, Funny)

sunspot42 (455706) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767569)

After threatening litigation, the city reached a $5 million settlement with the original vendor, Maximus, and may seek another vendor."

That's what happens when you buy your network from a vendor just because you liked their SimCity games.

This is why paper can never die!!! (1)

robfromnyc (1217994) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767597)

Governments across this country are trying to fully phase in computers. It can't work.

Inside Job! (4, Insightful)

Darkk (1296127) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767733)

They can have the best firewalls and anti-virus e-mail scanner on the planet but it takes ONE person with an infected laptop to plug it into the internal network and do it's dirty work without them knowing it in time.

It's possible they have been infected for months and didn't know it until things started to act funny.

To have that many PCs infected didn't surprise me as they didn't bother to take proper security precautions and audits. System admins didn't routinely check for viruses on their servers and didn't check their logs for anything out of the ordinary is asking for trouble.

I guess the system admins there figured, "Well, long as nobody is complaining about anything we're golden." It's possible they have a very small IT staff and outsource the security details to the vendor who they bought the system from who they are putting the blame on?

We have a security firewall appliance at work that does just about everything but I don't rely on it 100% to make sure it's doing it's job. I go through the logs daily and test it. Just have to be proactive on finding problems and fix it before anybody else notices it.

Re:Inside Job! (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768499)

Yes, thats true and a good sysadmin should be checking the logs, but reporting threats that aren't a major issue can make a computer-illiterate CEO think that it was your fault for the security breaches, a major outbreak of malware though is very easy to blame on "hackers", "pirates" and anything else you want to lay the blame on.

Re:Inside Job! (2, Informative)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768567)

A computer illiterate or budget conscious CEO or manager can also deliberately block upgrades to core systems that may require man-hours, hardware upgrades, or programmer time to test and integrate the upgrades despite known security risks, judged to be less dangerous than interfering with active services. I've had this happen, repeatedly, and try to be very careful to get my security concerns in writing in the hands of my manager, their manager, and an outside party so that I can establish that I've done my best and was blocked from doing the fixes before things broke.

It's hard on the admins when they're not permitted to to the fix. It's worse when some fool like the parent poster (not you Darkness, but your parent poster) insults you with 20/20 hindsight from thousands of miles away and no budget or other human limitations to deal with. Just try and pry free the money to get a registered SSL certificate so your company's users don't get used to randomly accepting SSL keys.

There is an easy way to prevent this (1)

gemada (974357) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768051)

Don't let users run as admins. if you have programs that don't behave well in a least-priviledge environment, you can use privilegemanager http://www.beyondtrust.com/ [beyondtrust.com] I have used it in networks both large and small and it works very well. No spyware or viruses for over 5 years on a wide variety of Windows-based networks. Next best thing to switching to Linux.

This is the solution to all of my legal problems! (2, Funny)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768397)

I just have to make sure the court jurisdiction where I'm in trouble gets a major virus infection so that they suspend arrests for minor offenses (why are they making arrests for minor things?) and put off trials.

It's pure simplicity!

How could this have happened? (2, Funny)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768587)

The mayor had just purchased a site license for AV360, this should not have happened... ahem. Wonder if they can cancel that check that they wrote with QuackBooks 2009 and the official letters sent out with EMESS Werd 2009... hmmmmm...

I like the recent trick with the fake parking fine (0)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768601)

Spreading actual physical papers on cars with a fake parking fine notification with links to a Web site to resolve the ticket issue where the site just dumps malware on the victim.

Now the infection of a court system.

Best way to take down a government today would be by taking down their computer systems.

Skynet did it on "Terminator" a few episodes ago - sent a guy back through time to insert a "roving backdoor" onto the government's systems, so once Skynet gets created it will have immediate access to government and corporate systems. And Derek and Jesse screwed up by not finding out about the plan from Fischer, the guy they caught who did it.

Payback from Florida (0)

raind (174356) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768663)

Buhwaaaaa

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