Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
The Courts Government Security News

Botnet Attack Shuts Down Hospital Network 360

aricusmaximus writes "A California student is now facing felony conspiracy charges after unleashing a botnet attack that shut down the network of a Seattle hospital intensive care unit. This indictment comes a few weeks after another California man pled guilty to similar charges. Both attacks were attempts to make money off of adware affiliate programs. So who's really at fault here? The students? The hospital for not securing their computers and network? Or the adware companies for providing the incentive?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Botnet Attack Shuts Down Hospital Network

Comments Filter:
  • Student's Fault (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Sunday February 12, 2006 @09:49AM (#14699488) Journal
    So who's really at fault here? The students? The hospital for not securing their computers and network? Or the adware companies for providing the incentive?
    The students, clearly.

    Colt manufactures guns. Man opens fire in public with a Colt pistol. Who's at fault? The shooter, of course.

    I don't want to hear any psychology bullshit claiming it's not their fault--that it's society's fault for making them desire more money. I don't want to hear any bullshit that they didn't know what they were doing or the hospital should have had better security. This is an aggressive act against a public service--the internet. Computer savvy students implement code that shuts down many computers for the purpose of advertising profit. They didn't realize what they were doing? Oh, come on. Even if they didn't, it's a valuable lesson and a few less spammers to ruin the world when they graduate. Tough. You like computers? How about five to ten in federal-pound-me-in-the-ass prison?

    I'll bet they wished they had enrolled in Computer Ethics 101 before going on this capital venture. As an additional punishment, they should be forced to code software to stop stuff like this from happening and tailor it for medical equipment/computers.

    And what kind of intensive care unit is "shut down" when they can't use computers? It's not like their work would have to grind to a stand still. I don't want to sound like a luddite but are we really that dependent on computers? They're medical professionals, I hope they did just shut down and stop working when the computers crashed.

    This student is in deep trouble. He chose actions that had grave consequences and now he'll face the charges resulting from those actions.

    Inignot: Your stereo is now his stereo by way of my actions.
    Shake: Yes meatwad, with actions.
  • by Ooblek ( 544753 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @09:52AM (#14699502)
    Sounds like a setup for a Chewbacca Defense [].

    It is a pity that the US legal system is no longer about justice; it is now about what can be proven.

  • by SoupIsGoodFood_42 ( 521389 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @09:56AM (#14699512)
    What kind of idiot would blame the other two? No matter what motivates them, or who makes their job easier, they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for their own actions.
  • by luvirini ( 753157 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:00AM (#14699527)
    If you do not lock your network/car/house you are looking for trouble..

    if you make promotions that encourage antisocial behavior you should be ashamed..

    if you try to steal money frm above promitions by using above holes you are ofcourse a thing called criminal.

    And the extras: Companies making unsecure products..

  • by longword ( 2293 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:01AM (#14699530)
    In the same way gunshot victims who don't wear body armour are at fault.
  • by caluml ( 551744 ) <slashdot@spamgoeshere.calu m . o rg> on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:06AM (#14699544) Homepage
    Surely the actual ICU equipment isn't networked at all, and this just inconvenienced the admin and support staff in that dept?
  • Who's at fault? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:07AM (#14699547) Homepage Journal
    So who's really at fault here? The students? The hospital for not securing their computers and network? Or the adware companies for providing the incentive?

    While I agree with some previous posts that most of the fault lies with the student who perpetrated the act, the adware company is an accomplice. They provided the financing to do an illegal act. That's illegal in itself in most places. Maybe they didn't know the students were going to do something illegal, which could be the technicality that gets them off, but it's still scum-of-the-earth low.

    The hospital has regulations as to how much security they are required to have for personal health records. Canada has similar legislation, but it covers any personal information that's collected by any company. Now admittedly a DoS attack wouldn't expose any of this information, if that's what it was. I didn't RTFA, but I did RTFS, and it sounds like it could have been, even though it isn't stated explicitly.

    So, yes. The fault lies with all of them in varying degrees.
  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <> on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:07AM (#14699550) Homepage
    All three are to blame, but to different degrees.

    The students should be taken out and beaten. Anyone with any level of computer knowledge these days should know such activities are both highly immoral and illegal. This isn't stealing MP3s. And to attack a hospital? How thoughtless can you get? However, it's easy to be tempted by this type of thing, while these students got caught, many more got away with it at some point.

    The Hospital should be scolded, but it's hard to know just from the story to what degree. It could range from a slap on the wrist to a lawsuit. If they had good computer security, then the students were just good at getting through. If it was bad computer security, then they need to step up and admit it. In any case, they are a hospital that appears to be running Windows to control their sensitive security systems. Bad choice, and that alone warrants one finger pointed at the hospital, if it's true. However, many hospitals are notoriously underfunded. In any case, I hope the IT staff of the hospital reviews this situation and revamps their software to minimize this risk in the future.

    The adware makes should all be taken out and shot. They are the immoral facilitators and the ones who should take the most blame. They are the modern day equivalent of drug dealers. They didn't kill the person taking their drugs, but they knew it eventually would come to that, and they never stopped selling. They put all the risk for the crime on the students, knowing full well they could get caught, and that someone elses computer system would be seriously damaged. Something very gruesome and painful should befall them, before execution.
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tpgp ( 48001 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:08AM (#14699552) Homepage
    Colt manufactures guns. Man opens fire in public with a Colt pistol. Who's at fault? The shooter, of course.

    Hmmmmn, nice attempt to start a flamewar. I mean there's nothing like a gun analogy to get people to discuss thing rationally is there?

    Anyway, back on topic. I think you need to understand shades of grey - the students are clearly most at fault for being the ones who actually caused the damage.

    However, the spy/adware companies are most certainly complicit - they operate in a manner where they encourage and facilitate botnets. To go back to your trollish example, it would be like if Colt were advertising guns as 'man killers' or 'the perfect sniper tool', selling armour piercing bullets, etc etc.

    Thirdly, whilst the hospital mightn't take any of the blame for this incident, it certainly raises questions about negligence in allowing a critical network to be so open. Returning to your analogy, it would be like a gun shop not properly securing its merchandise and then shrugging its shoulders when there was a massacre using firearms stolen from said shop.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:08AM (#14699553)

    It is a pity that the US legal system is no longer about justice; it is now about what can be proven.

    I don't understand your comment. If you cannot prove a person is guilty, punishing them is not justice.

  • by jdwclemson ( 953895 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:13AM (#14699571)
    Is there no end to the chaotic suggestion that the victims are at fault? People SHOULD lock their doors, they SHOULD keep their children from strangers, they SHOULD avoid walking down dark alleys late at night. That doesn't mean they are the ones at fault with the burgler, rapist, or thug attack. When you even suggest the fault lies with anybody but the attacker, you only validate them as being victims of lose security. This breeds contemptable statements such as "it wasn't my fault I killed the man, he should of had a gun to stop me". Absurd? I agree, Zonk's suggestion certainly was.
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <> on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:23AM (#14699620) Journal
    Suggesting that the hospitals are at fault for failing to secure their networks adequately is assinine

    No, it's a well-established legal theory, known as "contributory negligence". The perps are the main culprits, but it's quite likely that the hospital and several of their vendors will end up tapping their liability insurance to the tune of some millions of dollars.

  • Stupid question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:27AM (#14699629) Journal
    So who's really at fault here? The students? The hospital for not securing their computers and network? Or the adware companies for providing the incentive?

    Note that what follows below is only based on RTFA wich as usuall when dealing with mainstream press reporting on tech may be wrong or inaccurate or indeed made up on the spot. Nonetheless based on this I conclude the following.

    That the student used zombie computers to install adware software that would then generate 'hits' for the students account so that he would be paid. He was using computers he did not own to defraud adware companies by generating false ad hits. This is a wellknown fraud dealing mostly with pay-per-click style ad schemes.

    So who takes blaim here and for what? Funny enough that the 'question' left out the first and most obvious cullprit.

    • Microsoft for creating an OS that never bothered with security. How do I know it was windows that was hacked? Because everyone know just how many ad programs there are that run on that various unix like OS'es out there.
    • The hospital for not buying proper software, anything not made by MS, and not properly securing their infrastructure. Yes criminals are to blaim for breaking in but you should still lock your house.
    • The adware companies really ain't to blaim that much. They are the victims here. The only blaim they share is like with the hospital in that they do not properly secure their operations to guard against fraud. But since they are the ones who lost money by paying for fake advertising they are the victim.
    • And finally the student. Well it is clear he is a criminal, he took computers that did not belong to him and used them to defraud a third party (the ad companies) for his own personal gain. He is not just some hacker who got caught playing around, he was doing it for the money. I doubt very much he is in fact a hacker, more likely he just used readily available tools to do the work for him. This makes him a simple criminal.

    I am amazed that MS was not mentioned as one of the cullprits. How often does their software got to lead to crap like this before people will finally ban it for any serious use. Would we accept a hospital that used say oxygen bottles filled by the local scuba diver club? Use alcohol produced in someone's bathtub?

    I would very much like to hear that the person responsible for that hospitals computer systems is fired and never allowed to work again. Yes the student is the criminal here who deserves jail time but a sysadmin who installs windows deserves the chair. And yes I would be happy to throw the switch. Hell I would be happy to peddle on a bike to generate the electricity.

    If I sound a bit biased against MS it is because I have once again been drafted in working on some piece of crap MS setup because some MSCE idiot made a nice sales pitch. Why don't you just put a sign on your server "Own me!" and be done with it.

  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:47AM (#14699684)
    I agree with you entirely, until you include the financial incentive.

    If Colt were to offer $1 for each person shot, then Colt certainly is responsible in addition to the student. To make the tool available is one thing, to provide incentive to use it in an unethical/illegal manner is taking responsibility.

    The nice thing is, responsibility isn't finite: both the student AND the adware provider can be equally responsible!
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mistshadow2k4 ( 748958 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:09AM (#14699784) Journal
    Making guns isn't really comparable to an adware company offering incentives to execute botnet attacks, imho. It would only be comparable if the gun manufacturer offered rewards for shooting people, which I've never heard of any doing. If someone takes out a contract on another person's life, we don't let them walk away and just punish the hitman.
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:10AM (#14699787) Homepage Journal
    So who's really at fault here? The students? The hospital for not securing their computers and network? Or the adware companies for providing the incentive?"


    Though not all to the same degree as I'm sure you would agree. The student is of course the one that chose to break the law, and is most directly responsible for his actions. He was influenced by the adware company that offered incentive to break the law, "conspiracy to commit felony" or some such law. It's not as severe of a punishment as the felony (usually) but it's still illegal and clearly wrong.

    "blame the victim" is a more controversial issue. I believe that "gross neglegence to protect one's own best interests" should in itself place a small amount of the blame on the victim. The world is not perfect, everyone is not honest, and you cannot possibly convince me that anyone in the world believes everyone around them is a saint. By not taking basic precautions when exposed to the general public, you dramatically increase your risk of becoming a victim, and that is your fault.

    If I leave my car parked for a week downtown with the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition, I'd be quite surprised to find it there a week later when I returned for it. Am I the one that stole the car? Of course not. But did my actions (or lack of actions) knowingly contribute to the theft? Of course. Were they easily preventable? Of course. That's why many insurance companies will not insure against theft if you leave your car unlocked and keys in the ignition, they recognize that you invited unnecessary and excessive risk.

    I believe that the ones who so strongly resist blaming the victim are those that either have been victims in the past or that are afraid of becoming a victim, and believe that they have no responsibility to take care of themselves, and that the world should protect them. They are living in a fantasy world.

    Looked at another way, criminals prefer easy targets, and this is a known factor. By taking less precaution for your safety and security than the average person, you attract the criminals to you and increase your odds of becoming a victim. Choosing to do that has got to be considered an error in judgement.
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aelbric ( 145391 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:13AM (#14699811)
    How can anyone even debate this? Two words. Personal responsibility. It should be a required class in all primary, secondary and higher education school systems.

    Returning to your analogy, it would be like a gun shop not properly securing its merchandise and then shrugging its shoulders when there was a massacre using firearms stolen from said shop.

    So the merchant is responsible for someone stealing his merchandise (an illegal act) and then psychoing out somewhere (another illegal act)? If someone steals a car during a test drive, goes out and gets hammered and plows through a line of school children, are you suggesting the dealer is at fault for not "properly securing their merchandise"? I'm having trouble seeing the logic here.
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqlrob ( 173498 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:15AM (#14699826)
    But beyond that, diagnostic instruments and otherwise are so complicated they need to be on some sort of computer system.

    On a computer system, yes.

    WTF do they need to be on the Internet for?
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:4, Insightful)

    by loraksus ( 171574 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:20AM (#14699850) Homepage

    The students, clearly.
    Colt manufactures guns. Man opens fire in public with a Colt pistol. Who's at fault? The shooter, of course.

    The difference is that colt doesn't pay people to fire their pistols in public. Now, this doesn't absolve the dumbass of any responsibility, but it sure as hell makes the adware company an accessory. Seriously, they didn't think anything was going on when someone gained 50,000 PCs in a couple of weeks? They knew and didn't give a shit because they were paid even more money by the people whose "content" (read: shit) they were serving up.

    Kneecap 'em both (yes, there are more than 2 people involved) - and I mean this quite literally, this sort of shit would get nipped in the bud quite quickly if we went IRA on them and used a makita drill (or would it have to be Black and decker, you know, for the whole "made in america" thing.)
    A couple hundred companies should also be knocking on the adware companies' doors, "politely" asking for a refund and leaving letters from their lawyers.

    And, to be quite honest, a couple sysadmins also need a kick in the ass with a steel tipped pointy boot. Why would your keycard system be connected to your network, especially in a hospital situation? To say nothing of the fact that the pager system got owned (from what I understand, pagers are sort of important to doctors in hospitals) and it seems that pretty much everything was disrupted because ~15% of their computers were infected.
    Not blaming them for the attacks, of course, but lets be serious, this was a pretty big screwup on their part. Then again, given hospital politics, it probably wasn't the sysadmin's fault, but a department head who has no training in IT, but does everything Toilet and Douche tells him to do.

    Finally, id by some small chance, Christopher Maxwell is reading this, I can only hope that in 15 years you will remember your job at WalMart and recall how it was the best job you ever had.
    Don't drop the soap, bud.
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:2, Insightful)

    by basscomm ( 122302 ) <basscomm AT crummysocks DOT com> on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:21AM (#14699858) Homepage
    At the hospital I work at, there are any number of reasons why a computer might be connected to the Internet. Perhaps someone might wish to visit the site of the CDC [] to get up to date information on some disease or other. Maybe the hospital offers training services via a third-party web site. Of course, they don't have full-blown access to the Internet, but they are connected for various legitimate reasons.
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TFGeditor ( 737839 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:25AM (#14699871) Homepage

    I used to be on the "Microsoft sucks" bandwagon, but then realized that "security vulnerabilities" would not exist if there were no dirtbags exploiting them.

    No, vulnerabilities or not, it is not Microsoft's/Bill Gates' or Steve Jobs' or Linus Torvald's fauly when some criminal with a computer wreaks havoc on the internet or a private network. It is ALWAYS the criminal's fault.

    An unsecured system is no more an "invitation" to exploit than a short skirt is an invitation to rape.

  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MysteriousPreacher ( 702266 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:28AM (#14699879) Journal
    Returning to the gun shop analogy (since it seems to be popular). If the gun shop doesn't take the precautions required by law and someone steals guns to use in a crime then the gun shop is liable. The point though is that the gun shop is not to blame for the shootings but should be legally liable for the fact that it allowed it's guns to be stolen because they didn't observe their legal obligations.

    If a car shop allows a visibly drunk man with no drivers licence to test drive a car then while not responsible for the deaths caused, they should bear some responsibility for fulfulling their legal obligations (assuming they have any).
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:4, Insightful)

    by loraksus ( 171574 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:33AM (#14699907) Homepage
    Precisely. It sounds like (ok, this is going to be geeky as hell, but I'm going to do it anyways) someone could learn by watching a couple episodes of Battlestar Galactica.

    And I suppose they might need the internet for paging their doctors - since it is probably a third party company that has a laughably bad ("Oh look, we ported our paging app to java and can run it over the web! Goodie Golly!") interface - but I'm pretty sure it can be done a bit more elegantly and can be made a bit more resilient.

    What the fuck their keycard access system was doing on the same network as some of the infected computers is a complete mystery to me though.
  • by NorbrookC ( 674063 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:34AM (#14699909) Journal

    Yet another slashdot thread where everyone immediately starts screaming "Linux!" "BSD!" the second they hear the term "security breach". Of course, it'd be nice if there were actually a lot of applications for healthcare that run on those OSs - which there aren't. OSS is pretty thin on the ground when it comes to this field.

    Why don't you look and see what's involved in hospital IT? I've been there, and it's a major headache for admins. You have administrators who don't really know much about computers and doctors who are frequently the biggest prima donnas in the world when it comes to getting what they want, in a corporate culture which caters to them.

    Add in software developers who frequently have no clue as to what's actually needed, how to make a useable UI, and how information flows in a healthcare setting. But they have a hell of a sales pitch to the doctors and administrators, and you're the one who has to make it work.

    Now try to secure it. Really! Wait until the first time Doctor X decides they're going to install their personal software on the workstation. Never mind that supposedly they're not allowed to do that - they'll do it anyways and then scream at you when you take it off. Take a wild guess as to who the hospital's going to back!

    It's easy to blame the IT people, and the use of Windows, here. Wrong, but easy. They picked it up pretty quickly, and dealt with it. I'm sure they'd have loved to have more control, but unfortunately it's a question of what you're allowed to do, not what you want to do.

  • by MrNougat ( 927651 ) <> on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:40AM (#14699940)
    Let's say I have a car with a nice stereo in it. I leave the car unlocked all night, and in the morning discover that the stereo is missing, having been ripped out of the dash with what I can presume was a crowbar.

    The crowbar company is not at fault. I am not at fault, even if I am stupid for having left the car unlocked. The thief is at fault, the end. My leaving my car unlocked does not give anyone the right to enter my car for any reason.

    Just because computers are involved doesn't mean the rules change. If someone sent you a piece of postal mail touting P3N1S ENLARRGMNT, you would throw it away immediately, but for some reason, when it's sent via email, it carries more validity.
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <> on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:41AM (#14699945) Homepage
    If that network is so critical, then why is it so vulnerable???
  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:52AM (#14700000)

    What kind of idiot would blame the other two?

    The kind of idiot that thinks that a hospital, being responsible for the wellbeing of its patients, were neglicent in guarding that wellbeing ? Or that the addware scum were perhaps being just a teeny bit guilty for offering a reward for illegal activities ?

    No matter what motivates them, or who makes their job easier, they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for their own actions.

    The students are responsible for their own actions. The hospital is responsible for neglect in a position where such neglect may result in deaths. The adware companies are responsible for offering a reward for illegal activities.

    Think of it this way: if I run a nuclear power plant, and make the main reactor controls available from Internet, am I guilty of something when someone hacks the reactor to explode ? And if I put out a bounty on someones head, am I guilty of something when some hitman takes the offer and kills the poor bastard ?

    Of course the hacker and the hitman are responsible for their own actions, but that certainly doesn't make me innocent.

  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ninji ( 703783 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:53AM (#14700003)
    I've got no choice but to agree. Even if it was in no way intentional to have anything relating to a hospital's systems, If your going to do something illegal for profit, everything that happens as a reprecution is your responsiblity. Direct or indirect, you are the cuase for those actions, and in this case, it is quite direct.

    I could see his charge being lowered, for the hosptial shutting down being unintentional, but should definetly still be a large amount of jail time. By this I mean, If I blow up large explosives in areas where nobody is for fun, its a limited charge of recklnessness and poessesion of such explosives. If I blowup a childrens shooltrip bus on accident, it wasn't intentional, but im still going to jail for along time and rightfully so. If that was the case, I shouldn't of been playing with bombs in the first place, they are dangerous and things like that can happen, thus my responsiblity to take the punishment if something does.

    The same in this case, even if unintentional, he is still directly responsible for all the problems that happend as a result of it. He took the responsiblity of making 100,000$ breaking the law, now he can take the responsiblity for the people he hurt, put at risk, and put through that event(im sure if your due for emergency surgery and the hosptial is going HAYWIRE your going to be a little traumatized).
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:4, Insightful)

    by utlemming ( 654269 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:55AM (#14700019) Homepage
    Shades of gray? Who to blame?

    Real easy: The principles are the consiprators. They are the ones that planned the attack, launced it, and used the tools. Personal responsability is not mitigated by availiability, oportunity or circumstance. Just because they saw how to use a tool in such a way does not make them any less the guilty. The gun analogy here does not quite work. Why? Because the adware network had to be changed in order to get it work. So there was more planning, work, testing, etc., which proves more culpability and the maliciious nature of the act. In the case of gun, you just load, point and click. In this case, an entire bot net was pointed at a target, programmed and then used to attack. It is a whole lot different than pointing one gun, it is the equivalent of pointing thousands of guns, and then firing them. Worst yet, it is the equivalent of pointing thousands of guns and then blackmailing someone by saying you won't do it unless they pay you not to do it. So sure they saw that they could do it. They did it. But that does not in any way mitiagate there culpability.

    As much as I hate the adware people, they are just as much as a victem too. Assume that the software was legitimately on the computers they hijacked, then this stunt was in violation of the computer tresspass laws. Further, there software was reversed engineered, hacked and then used on a hospital in an attempt to get the money.

    So painting the hospital and the adware company as secondaries is foolish. When some decides that they are going to exploit someone or something and use illegal methods to gain, everybody in the chain becomes a victem, regardless of their degree of contributing participation. If the adware company had the forsight to know that its software could have been used to do such a thing, then it would reasonable to blame them, but I seriously doubt they did.

    Otherwise, rest the blame squarely on the shoulders of the princple attackers. Personal responsability is what matters. The attackers used what they knew to exploit the tools.
  • by Mark Hood ( 1630 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @12:50PM (#14700262) Homepage
    [C]ulpability lies solely with the two defectives who committed the crime

    So do you lock the front door when you leave the house?

    Yes? But why, surely it's not your fault if someone comes in and takes everything, it's entirely their fault, no?

    Lock your car too? Use passwords on your PC? Do you walk along flashing your cash at all and sundry?

    You're right, it's the choice of these kids to break the law - but a hospital ought to 'lock the doors'... Not least because if they have a system that literally controls whether people live & die, they should not let just anyone have access to it. I want to know why the Intensive Care unit was on the Internet at all. If ever there was a system that should have an 'air gap' to the real world, it's that.

    And the people saying 'the hospital isn't to blame any more than a woman in a short skirt is to blame for being raped' - it's not about blame, it's about responsible actions. If a woman dressed provocatively walks home alone on darkened streets, of course she doest not want to be raped, but she has to appreciate it raises the likelihood. Rapists exist, and every woman has a duty to herself not to make herself a target. Criminals exist, and every person (institution, business) have a duty to themselves (and their customers) not to make themselves targets too. If you walk down the street with your iPod in your hand, a mugger is more likely to target you than if you don't - doesn't mean it's not his fault, just that you didn't try and protect yourself.

    Agreed, the 'short skirt' argument shouldn't get the rapist a lighter sentence, just because his justifcation was 'she was asking for it' any more than the hospital being insecure should reduce the penalty on these cretins. But I hope the judge says 'you see the scum that's out there? Be smart, be safe, and don't take the risk'.

    It's possible for both sides to be at fault - but that seems to elude a large number of the Slashdot 'group thinkers'. Lock these guys up as long as you like, but if you don't also get the hospital to wise up then it's pointless - there's a never ending collection of criminals out there... and next time someone could die.

  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mortis_aeturnus ( 606421 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @12:56PM (#14700288)
    If you believe that some of the hospital staff is not partially at fault, then you are either not a proponent of personal responsibility, or you are a contradicting yourself.

    The criteria for responsibility is cause and effect. If one entity was not present or did not perform an action (or held an inaction), and the problematic event did not occur, than that entity is responsible.

    Victims should not deserve any benefit of lax criticism solely for being a victim. Furthermore, those who wrongfully claim to be a victim when they are not victims are clearly liars.

    In this case, the victim is not just the hospital. The victims are also the patients of this hospital. However, the patients were at more of a loss than the hospital itself. There has been little discussion of how the hospital staff should be protecting the patients from this attack. The staff is complacent in their inability to protect the integrity of the hospital and, more importantly, the well being of the patients.

    Consider the following examples. If a hospital did not use use sterile equiptment and patients become infected with a pathogen, should the hospital be responsible, or should the pathogen be responsible. By your logic, the pathogen will be responsible. However, the hospital is clearly at fault here.

    If a network of computers becomes zombies after an individual invades them, would you consider the owners of the computers to be at fault? Clearly, you might not. However the computers are similar to pets of an owner. If a pet kills a person, the owner is also at fault. Similarly, the owners of the computer(s) are also at at fault because their property is being used, addendum a hypothesis that the zombies are to be used in an invasive act, should be partially responsible. If one does not believe that the computer owners are at fault, then one can not support laws of most Western societies in their entirety.
  • by NorbrookC ( 674063 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @01:00PM (#14700304) Journal

    Microsoft software shouldn't be allowed in hospitals for the same reason pets aren't allowed in surgery rooms.

    Nice - but do you know how little software for hospitals is available that doesn't require Windows? I'm serious. I know a lot of healthcare IT people who'd love to be able to move away from Windows, but you can't work with something that doesn't exist. Which is the state of OSS - and even the various closed *nix systems - in this area. Not enough applications.

    A doctor who insists in having his MS-Windows computer connected to a critical hospital

    That doesn't stop them from bringing in their own software disks. I spent a lot of time when I worked in a hospital IT setting, removing screensavers which took over all the workstation resources ("but it looked cool!"), AOL ("I wanted to check my e-mail") and various viruses ("I was working on this at home, and...") All of which was against hospital policy. The computers didn't even have modems, but that didn't stop them. These were all things that would have gotten a desk clerk fired in a heartbeat, but the most you could do to the doctors was to politely request that they not do it again.

    A hospital that relies on a computer system that isn't secure enough cannot blame the crackers.

    Absolutely you can blame the crackers! Just because I left my front door unlocked doesn't give you the right to walk into my house. Point out that I forgot to lock the door, fine. Anything else is not.

  • We're at fault (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Simonetta ( 207550 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @01:34PM (#14700473)
    We are the ones who are responsable. Because, we, the technological elite, have done nothing to prevent this type of situation from occuring. And we have the power to do so. But we don't have the spine to accept our responsibilities for the technology that we create.

        Who should go to jail or at least get tossed out of school? The students of course. For unleashing deliberately an uncontrolled technology for profit without making any preparations for the consequences.

        If you are a chemical company and you dump poison into a stream or pump it into the air to get rid of industrial surplus, and this directly causes death and destruction, then you are responsible (at least in the civilized world). You make sure of the effects of what you do before you do it.

        Same with software. The days are just about over where people will accept unwanted consequences of bad software as unforseen 'acts of God'. The time is coming to an end where you can publish any junk with a tiny print disclaimer stating that you as the software creator are not responsible for anything that the software does.

        Same with malware. The software company that put out this adware program should be sued out of business, and the programmers should be blacklisted for creating an application that was outside of acceptable guidelines. And we as the technical elite should set and enforce the guidelines. This is an idea whose time has come and no one else can do it but us. This is the only way that this type of thing will stop. And if the adware program sellers don't like it, too bad. We created the net; we control the net; we take responsibility for what assholes do on the net; we punish the assholes who don't follow our guidelines. That is the way it should be. It would improve the position and respect that geeks get in society.

        Blaming the hospital is like blaming 911 equipment makers for the situations that caused people to call 911 (an emergency telephone code that contacts help in the USA). No one would blame electrical equipment manufacturers for the acts of a criminal deliberately cutting the power in a hospital.
  • by atomic_toaster ( 840941 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @01:59PM (#14700579)
    Let's set the argument regarding who is at fault aside for a moment. Let's even set aside the "this wouldn't have happened on a non-Microsoft OS" hyperbole. My main question is this:


    I can't think of a single reason that the computers containing confidential information, personal medical records, and systems necessary for the day-to-day running of the hospital weren't on a stand-alone network in the first place. There are probably some tools that require internet connection, but why weren't these tools run on separate computers? It's fairly easy to transfer data from an internet-connected computer to a non-internet-connected computer (and vice-versa) with floppy discs, removable drives, CDs, DVDs, etc. It may create a small extra step every once and a while, but it's not like the dangers of computers being hacked over the internet is unknown. Even if it did not create an ethical dilemma to have patient records possibly available to a competent internet hacker, the threat of massive lawsuits should such information be stolen should be enough to create some justifiable paranoia about internet attacks. Also, if someone had died because of a slowing of communications within the hospital due to the current hacking, the hospital probably would have been faced with a wrongful death suit. Whether the hospital lost such a lawsuit or not, it would still cost a lot of money and effect the bottom line.

    Come on, people, this should be a case of enlightened self-interest. It may be the robber's fault if the robber comes into your house through an unlocked door, but the insurance company won't cover your losses if you left the door unlocked. Locking your doors can be a bit inconveninent if you have to get the door open again while carrying an armload of groceries, but it's worth the security in the long run.
  • by Inoshiro ( 71693 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @02:23PM (#14700666) Homepage
    "So who's really at fault here? The students?"

    Yup. Motive, means, opprotunity. S/he went ahead and performed a crime. This is the easiest to prosecute under the very slow-to-adapt laws that exist at the moment.

    "The hospital for not securing their computers and network?"

    Yup. Not taking due care with patients' lives is a felony, IIRC. This is as bad as not requiring your doctors to have a degree or wash their hands. The hospital is lawfully required to set safe standards.

    "Or the adware companies for providing the incentive?"

    Yup. These folks are guilty of a different crime, but still guilty. I don't know why there aren't more police aresting people and charging them with theft of service. Ad-ware is almost exactly like spam in terms of its side effects and damage.

    Everyone is guilty! Only the student will be prosecuted, unless some smart lawyers get on it.
  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @02:30PM (#14700695)
    The students are at fault, above all else. But I can't believe that the IT department of the hospital was so incredibly foolish as to put everything on the same network. Access control for the doors, computers in the ICU, the system that handles paging doctors...all on the same net instead of broken out by system? What the hell? Did the system at the nurses' station in the ICU NEED to have direct connectivity to the card reader on the door?

    I don't think for an instant that the students who exploited systems at the hospital are in any way excused by the fact that the hospital set themselves up for a good hard screwing once they got exploited. But a role of designing networks and systems needs to face the facts that such people do exist, are out there, and are very busy. You have to plan for certain "what if" situations, and this is a textbook example of one such scenario. That the IT department of the hospital put all of their eggs into one networking basket as they did is utterly inexcusable, and they too share some blame for planning a system on the proverbial assumption that there are no bad people in the world.
  • -1 Totally Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dustmite ( 667870 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @02:32PM (#14700701)

    but then realized that "security vulnerabilities" would not exist if there were no dirtbags exploiting them

    Yes they would - security vulnerabilities are defects/holes in the software and they would exist regardless of whether or not they were exploited. (If a lock manufacturer makes locks that are easy to pick, those locks are easy to pick regardless of whether anyone actually uses that fact to break into something. Your 'tree falls in a forest' logic is wrong, unless you believe in 100% relativism, which anyone who has ever bumped their toe against something in the dark will be able to tell you is nonsense.)

    Perhaps you were thinking of "exploits". But if you can't even get the most incredibly basic security terminology right, I'm not sure you are qualified to be saying anything about computer security at all.

  • by TeraCo ( 410407 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @04:23PM (#14701153) Homepage
    If you'd thought about it, it would be obvious why this is the case. In the case of NASA, if it wasn't safe people wouldn't volunteer. In the case of ICU, you're never going to have a shortage of 'volunteers'.
  • by kavau ( 554682 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @04:35PM (#14701206) Homepage
    "So who's really at fault here? The students? The hospital for not securing their computers and network? Or the adware companies for providing the incentive?"

    How about "all of them"? Our society likes to attribute guilt to a single party (or even a single person, aka scapegoat) whenever possible and convenient. Makes the task of appearing to make progress and fixing things much easier, I guess.

    Shit happens when idiots collide.

  • dumb question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pci ( 13339 ) <vince.power@gmai l . c om> on Sunday February 12, 2006 @04:48PM (#14701260) Homepage
    who is guilty?
    The students are guilty
    Adware companys are just scum
    and well the hospital has a small case of stupidity
  • Another analogy: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @05:41PM (#14701454) Journal
    Hear hear. There's plenty of fault to go around.

    Here's another analogy that should make it even clearer:

    A bank puts its customers' deposits in a bushel basked behind a non-armor plate-glass window and closes for the night. A thief comes by, breaks the glass with a hammer, grabs the money, and runs.

    Who's to blame?
      - The bank?
      - The thief?
      - The manufacturer of the hammer?
      - The manufacturer of the plate glass window?
      - The car dealership selling the luxury car the thief wanted?

    It's pretty obvious to me:
      - The thief, for breaking in and stealing the money, and
      - The bank, for not exercising due dilligence in protecting its depositors' money.

    The same with the hospital, which has an obligation to exercise due dilligence in protecting its patients' health and the infrastructure which directly affects the provision of its medical treatments.

    Yes the student was at fault, too. But it's a big wide world out there. With something like five billion people in it and a significant fraction of them having network access, there are plenty of bad and/or irresponsible people with a network presence.

    This constitutes a threat as pervasive as weather, or disease. It's up to people who run institutions like banks and hospitals to take this into account. They must take reasonable precautions to protect the health - physical or financial - of the people who have entrusted it to their care.

    Microsoft software is NOT rated for life-critical applications and its security flaws are well known. What the HELL was a hospital doing putting life-critical information on it, or letting it share a network with life-critical systems AND the rest of the internet?

    I don't know about the rest of you. But just as I wouldn't deposit my money at a bank that leaves it sitting behind a plate-glass window overnight, I'm not going to schedule any medical procedures at a hospital that let this happen, then gave no visible sign of accepting any responsibility for the failure, blaming it entirely on the intruder.
  • Re:Student's Fault (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Randseed ( 132501 ) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @05:49PM (#14701484)
    I'm a physician and have worked in around seven hospitals, six ICUs, two pediatric ICUs, and one neonatal intensive care unit, among all the wards, clinics, and other random mechanisms of healthcare delivery. I can honestly say that the IT guys are damn, fucking, scarily incompetent. Some examples:

    One hospital, a major level 1 trauma center, has a medical record system that's almost entirely on computer. It actually works pretty well. The application runs under X11, and bounces off a server program which is basically a middle-end to some SQL database software. So instead of going out and buying some PCs, installing Linux or BSD on them, and running their app, they splurge and spend much more for these IBM workstations. Again, no big deal. Then, because they're worried about fires, etc., they have several fallback servers which are basically mirrored copies of the database clustered around the hospital. I was bored one night in the E.R., where one of these fallover servers is, and got sick of an AIX login prompt staring at me. "login: root" "password: " Boom. Root prompt. (And am I going to report this? HELL NO. "Hey, that doctor hacked the network! REPORT HIM TO THE STATE! AIEEEEE!")

    This same place at least did something sane. They have a bunch of Winblows machines running on their major network. They subnetted the AIX machines such that they can't access the Internet, and can only access the health information systems. The problem, however, is since now they had a bunch of Windows machines around that nobody ever used, they installed some kind of X11 server, and opened the network to these machines. So the AIX machines can't talk to the Internet. However, the Windows machines -- the one which are most likely to get infected with something -- can talk to the Internet and the medical records network with impunity. Oops.

    Another hospital installed a software package which was a IBM DB2 frontend of some sort, written in ncurses. It left some things to be desired, but worked okay once you got used to it. (I prefer CLIs, damn it!) For various reasons, there were mechanisms to directly access the SQL database -- free of auditing, access restriction, or anything else -- from within the CLI, provided that you had a database login and password. Normally what happened is that the client program had the DB login and password locked away somewhere, and merely "authorized" you to use it. So one day I hit the wrong button and accidentally tell it I want straight SQL access. This system used a period to indicate "Oops. No, um, take me back." So I hit a period. "Password: " Uh. Period. I GET SOMETHING SAYING MY PASSWORD HAS EXPIRED AND I MUST RESET IT! Since it won't let me out otherwise, I set it to "12345" and get the hell out.

    Two years later when I left that hospital, I checked on my last day. The password still worked.

    The point is that hospitals are run by the same kind of incompetent Devry dingbats that corporate America is. It's just that they don't know it. So I'm not surprised that this hospital's network setup was so bad that this kid managed to pull this off.

    I also think the kid is a supreme idiot, and given exactly what he did, I'd like to beat him with a crowbar.

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A giant panda bear is really a member of the racoon family.