US Border security system left wide open due to Microsoft Windows Zotob worm

“A computer failure that hobbled border-screening systems at airports across the country last August occurred after Homeland Security officials deliberately held back a security patch that would have protected the sensitive computers from a virus then sweeping the internet, according to documents obtained by Wired News,” Kevin Poulsen reports for Wired News. “The documents raise new questions about the $400 million US-VISIT program, a 2-year-old system aimed at securing the border from terrorists by gathering biometric information from visiting foreign nationals and comparing it against government watch lists.”

“The Aug. 18 computer failure led to long lines at international airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and elsewhere, while U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, officials processed foreign visitors by hand, or in some cases used backup computers, according to contemporaneous press reports,” Poulsen reports. “Publicly, officials initially attributed the failure to a virus, but later reversed themselves and claimed the incident was a routine system failure.”

“US-VISIT consists of a hodgepodge of older mainframe databases, fronted by Windows 2000 workstations installed at nearly 300 airports, seaports and border crossings around the country. Government investigators have found the mainframes pretty secure, but confirm that security holes are present on the PC end of the system. But two CBP reports obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the virulent Zotob internet worm infiltrated agency computers the day of the outage, prompting a hurried effort to patch hundreds of Windows-based US-VISIT workstations installed at nearly 300 airports, seaports and land border crossings around the country,” Poulsen reports. “The Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program office declined to comment on the documents.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Government Intelligence: choosing Windows for mission critical applications. Even if they inexplicably can’t understand the blatantly obvious by reading tech news pages on any given day, it isn’t as if the idiots haven’t been specifically warned, either; please see related articles below. We propose a new rule: any U.S. government department with the word “security” in its name is hereby banned from using any Microsoft software products. In fact, as we’d rather our government computers just worked for a change, let’s make that a blanket rule for the whole mess — federal and state — while we’re at it. You bureaucratic bozos can buy all the Xboxes and mice you need in order to continue the required massive cash-flow into Redmond; we’re sure you’ll find creative ways to justify those items, as usual.

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Related articles:
Zotob Windows worm knocks out North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles – August 24, 2005
Cybersecurity advisor Clarke questions why anybody would buy from Microsoft – February 18, 2005
80,000 UK government computers knocked out in Microsoft Windows crash – November 28, 2004
Cyber-security adviser uses Apple Macintosh to avoid Windows’ security woes – September 27, 2004
UK Royal Navy will run nuclear bomb-carrying warships on Windows 2000 – September 07, 2004
Axcess Business News: Is the U.S. government ‘too dependent on Microsoft?’ – September 26, 2003
Baltimore Sun columnist suggests adding Mac OS X to mix of government computers for safety – September 17, 2003
CCIA wants U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security to reconsider buying ‘insecure Microsoft software’ – August 29, 2003
Apple’s Mac OS X added to U.S. government list of supported platforms – August 28, 2003
U.S. Department of Homeland Security says Windows vulnerable to attack – August 01, 2003
Department of Homeland Security chose Microsoft due to time and money limitations – July 21, 2003
U.S. Department of Homeland Security awards enterprise agreement to Microsoft – July 15, 2003


  1. A routine system failure huh? How can something so disastrous be considered “routine” and accepted, especially by our commanding officers? There’s no excuse for this. M$ should have been hung by the neck a LONG time ago for the injustice and mediocrity they’ve spread to our society.

    This is why we Mac folk are so obsessive about our product. If Apple were to discontinue the Mac platform the would would collapse into the worst form of malevolence in human history. Apple is the sanity in an insane world.

    Again, than you Apple and Steve Jobs for doing things the way they should be done and for giving people a way out of their ignorance.

  2. As a conservative I defend much of what the administration is doing, however as a mac user, this shit just seems stupid. Go open source or Mac OS, or just apply the freaking fixes!

    And its not like the borders aren’t already open…

  3. It’s a beat ’em bloody site.

    Anybody else see this as a metaphor for all that has been wrong since 9-11?

    It’s not about one steaming pile of dogmatic bulls**t or the other, it’s about GROSS INCOMPETENCE FUELED BY GREED.

    Until Apple releases something cool. Then it’s a Mac site again ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

  4. Doc Ob:

    I don’t think he was questioning whether the news was favorable to MS or not.. he just wondered how it had anything to do with Apple or Mac.

    MDN – please leave the schadenfreude articles out and stick to APPLE news, if not MAC news. I know it’s hard lately, what with Apple not having opened its fat mouth since the iHiFi debacle. But there are still people out there reviewing Boot Camp and there must be videos of people running SOMETHING besides FireFox and IE under Parallels. Let’s see how the thing runs an actual application.

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