Scarier Than CyberTerrorists? Sucky Software

Band-Aids on creaky infrastructures can hold them together for only so long
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2015 1:33 PM CDT
This is about to all blow up.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – "Don't be scared. Don't even be worried." That was Felix Salmon's advice on Fusion after computer glitches darkened the New York Stock Exchange, took the Wall Street Journal offline, and grounded United flights. But today on Medium, Zeynep Tufekci writes that while she gets Salmon's point that we should be breathing easy because yesterday's events weren't cyberterrorism, we should be even more concerned over the real cause: Our "software sucks." She notes the many multilayered legacy systems still in existence that companies keep putting metaphorical duct tape on instead of totally revamping. Tufekci pays special attention to this problem, noting that one of her jobs in college involved getting such software to work on newer machines.

"The sane solution would have been to port the whole system to newer machines, fully, with new source code," she writes. But time and money constraints prevented that, "so I wrote more code that intervened between the old programs and the old database, and added some options that the management wanted. It was a lousy fix." She adds that while these quick fixes may work for a while, "every new layer adds more vulnerability. We are building skyscraper favelas in code—in earthquake zones." Add to these creaky infrastructures a refusal on companies' parts to prioritize maintenance, and Tufekci believes that what she calls "software sucks syndrome" will do us in faster than "a Big Mean Attack of Cyberterrorists." Read her full piece.

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