Microsoft Security: Big and Money Explain Some Things

July 10, 2024

I am heading out for a couple of day. I spotted this story in my newsfeed: “The President Ordered a Board to Probe a Massive Russian Cyberattack. It Never Did.” The main point of the write up, in my opinion, is captured in this statement:

The tech company’s failure to act reflected a corporate culture that prioritized profit over security and left the U.S. government vulnerable, a whistleblower said.

But there is another issue in the write up. I think it is:

The president issued an executive order establishing the Cyber Safety  Review Board in May 2021 and ordered it to start work by reviewing the SolarWinds attack. But for reasons that experts say remain unclear, that never happened.

The one-two punch may help explain why some in other countries do not trust Microsoft, the US government, and the cultural forces in the US of A.

Let’s think about these three issues briefly.


A group of tomorrow’s leaders responding to their teacher’s request to pay attention and do what she is asking. One student expresses the group’s viewpoint. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. How the Recall today? What about those iPhones Mr. Ballmer disdained?

First, large technology companies use the word “trust”; for example, Microsoft apparently does not trust Android devices. On the other hand, China does not have trust in some Microsoft products. Can one trust Microsoft’s security methods? For some, trust has become a bit like artificial intelligence. The words do not mean much of anything.

Second, Microsoft, like other big outfits needs big money. The easiest way to free up money is to not spend it. One can talk about investing in security and making security Job One. The reality is that talk is cheap. Cutting corners seems to be a popular concept in some corporate circles. One recent example is Boeing dodging trials with a deal. Why? Money maybe?

Third, the committee charged with looking into SolarWinds did not. For a couple of years after the breach became known, my SolarWinds’ misstep analysis was popular among some cyber investigators. I was one of the few people reviewing the “misstep.”

Okay, enough thinking.

The SolarWinds’ matter, the push for money and more money, and the failure of a committee to do what it was asked to do explicitly three times suggests:

  1. A need for enforcement with teeth and consequences is warranted
  2. Tougher procurement policies are necessary with parallel restrictions on lobbying which one of my clients called “the real business of Washington”
  3. Ostracism of those who do not follow requests from the White House or designated senior officials.

Enough of this high-vulnerability decision making. The problem is that as I have witnessed in my work in Washington for decades, the system births, abets, and provides the environment for doing what is often the “wrong” thing.

There you go.

Stephen E Arnold, July 10, 2024


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