Ancient and Modern (aka “Digital Printouts” and Writing Secure Systems)
Image by Daniele Muscetta
I often find it funny to use the old reflex camera with films, but I mostly use it as if it was a digital one: I make many shots, some are good some are bad – I don’t bother printing them, I just let it develop and I scan the pictures I like from the film (several ones are even posted here this way).
I have even been talking about this with fellow flickerer’s: www.flickr.com/groups/romamor/discuss/72157600009019234/p…
On the opposite, it often happens that I want to print some photos made with the digital camera. So I take them to the shop on the Compact Flash, or more often on a USB pen drive.
Today, tough, something strange happened: the machine they use to print digital photos (some very big professional system for printing on photographic paper with a proprietary application which manages it) hanged while it was trying to load this one photo which was on the USB pendrive.
The guy at the shop got panicked: he said a week earlier a guy got the machine infected with a Virus through his USB pen, and he had to stop working for three days, spend a lot of money to get the system reinstalled…
I tried to tell him to close the application but he did not even get what I was talking about. He was saying that the system was not responsive… I was pretty sure the system WAS responsive, it was just the APPLICATION which was hanging, and since it looked like an NT-based system I tried to guide him through CTRL+ALT+DEL, to start "Task Manager", kill the application (this whole procedure took several minutes, and I had to show him which keys I was talking about as he was abel to find "ALT" but he had never hear of CTRL, left alone "DEL"). It was a Windows2000 Professional… so I wondered how did he logged in if he did not know that key combination….. I asked how did he get in when he started the machine…. "it opens automatically" he said. I see. I though it must be configured for autologon then. After killing the application he asked "how do I get out of this now??" "This" being Windows Explorer… I mean, the desktop. I pulled out my USB pendrive he was afraid of, I helped him reboot. He was nervous and he said it took much longer than normal to start up (I don’t believe ONE word of it, it just took much less time than my laptop with Vista takes to start up… but he was worried and that makes one anxious and makes time flow slower). He was afraid and nervous that the "thing" could have been broken somehow by trying to load a JPEG…
NOTHING made him confident about me: I tried to reassure him I am an IT Professional, that I work for Microsoft (unfortunately I did not have my business cards with me today, that would have probably helped!), that I put my hands on much more complex and "missioncritical" systems, that I would not bring him any virus whatsoever and I am paranoid about computer security…
Nothing. Nothing worked to re-assure him that there wasn’t anything to worry about my pen…
While the machine started I saw it doing AutoAdminLogon with Administrator… with a password of TWO characters.
Oh my god!
Then he wonders that he gets viruses from strangers. He runs as Administrator all the time!!!
But then I though and asked… "is there maybe a LIMIT on the SIZE of the file?". "Of course there is!".
Since the photo I wanted to print is actually a composition made of two photos pasted together, and each of the original was a 8 Megapixel photo, the resulting is a 16 Megapixel picture, a JPG file of roughly 8 megabytes in size. Well, this days it isn’t much anyway. We nearly have cameras which produce files with that high resolution…
..but if THAT application has a limit… WHY on earth doesn’t it CHECK for the bloody SIZE of the file BEFORE trying to load it ?
I mean, those are professional systems which – he said – cost around 150 THOUSAND of Euros… which they let run with an application which does NOT do any input checking/validation, runs the whole time as Administrator… while letting people bring in their own CD-ROMs, USB pens, flash memory cards….
and they expect it to be safe?
Now the guy was panicked and wouldn’t let me plug my pen it again.
Then he’s close in the afternoon, and I need that photo (and other ones) for tomorrow, because tomorrow it is my grandad’s 91st birthday and I wanted to bring them printed for him and framed as a present!
Morale: I have to find another place to print them in the afternoon, in a rush, because some company sells print systems which are written like crap, which need to run as Administrator and won’t do any input validation in their code. This is one of those situations where a design flaw matters.