Conspiracy theorists would probably be banging at Redmond’s gates by now. It seems that more and more reasons to upgrade to Windows 10 keep popping out of the woodwork forcing holdovers to leave their precious Windows 7 and their beloved Windows XP. Holdovers who have the cash, take the plunge. Upgrade to Windows 10. It’s not that bad. It will just feel like an ant bite. It’s either that or suffer one headache after another, and it’s not going to stop unless you pull out that Ethernet cable and turn of your wireless and tape those USB ports if you want to keep using your old operating system. Giving some data over to Microsoft or the NSA is probably better than having your machine crash every other Tuesday, right?
A couple of weeks ago, the world was surprised with the fast spread of perhaps the biggest ransomware attack in the history of desktop computing, which is WannaCry. The world of Linux is safe, the world of MacOS is safe, the new world of Windows 10 is safe, but the folks who still use Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP PCs are not since the NSA-grade malware WannaCry uses a vulnerability found in the file-sharing services of both operating systems. Sure, it’s easy for us to tell people to shell out some dough and upgrade. For some people, even businesses, it’s not that simple. These folks rely, perhaps heavily on legacy systems, some of which perhaps date back to the 16-bit character-based apps of long ago. This author for one can relate as I’ve tried to run the company’s old reliable Clipper-based system to a bunch of Windows XP computers that had to replace ones with Windows 98. Why not replace the Clipper-based program? We eventually did but for others, A, they can’t afford to, B, why fix what’s not broken and C, there’s just nothing else comparable or D, the app is just tailored to a specific machine that’s as equally hard to replace. Like those in hospitals, that are sometimes affected which makes a particular ransomware a headliner.
Some folks meanwhile just want to keep playing their favorite games that just won’t run in Windows 10 and won’t be bothered or couldn’t make a Windows 7 virtual machine. For some reason, I have trouble running Diablo II on Windows 7, and I like it more than Diablo III, but we really need to make some sacrifices don’t we? Anyway, these guys are just susceptible to more and more dangers, and many malicious entities know it, especially after WannaCry. Hey, let’s just release another one without that ET-call-home weakness, call it a day and wait for the bitcoins.
Well, malware is just one problem. How about folks who just want to see the world burn? People who find it funny or consider it an achievement to crash other people’s systems using just one line of code. There’s apparently a new bug inherent to the Windows NT file system which all forms of Windows use since the release of Windows NT. This bug can slow down or crash any system that tries to access or is made to access a particular file on the web. If the browser is made to access a particular file named “c:\$MFT\123”, the system will either slow down dramatically, or crash and display a BSoD. The problem is not really damaging, but it forces the user to restart the system over and over until he/she realizes to stay away from that site.
The Verge tells the problem best:
“Windows uses ‘$MFT’ for special metadata files that are used by NTFS file system, and Windows 7 and Windows 8 fail to handle this directory name correctly… The Verge has successfully tested the bug on a Windows 7 PC with the default Internet Explorer browser. Using a filename with “c:\$MFT\123” in a website image, our test caused a machine to slow down to the point where you have to reboot to get the PC working again.”
People would think that Microsoft can benefit massively with WannaCry. They do, but because WannaCry is so damaging and even life-threatening, they’re forced to step in and issue updates even for Windows XP. But how about this convenient little problem? It’s convenient because Windows 10 is immune to this bug as it is relatively immune to WannaCry. If Microsoft finds it worth their time to issue a patch for this new problem remains to be seen. This is just one of those opportunities they’ve been waiting for to convince users to move on sooner than later; because as older systems turn to rust, they’ll have to move on anyway. For the meantime, non-Windows 10 users are advised to stay on trusted sites or keep off the internet.