What happened with Badlock?

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of the Badlock security issue. It went public on April 12. Then things got weird.

I wrote about this a bit in a previous post. I mentioned there that this better be good. If it’s not, people will get grumpy. People got grumpy.

The thing is, this is a nice security flaw. Whoever found it is clearly bright, and if you look at the Samba patchset, it wasn’t trivial to fix. Hats off to those two groups.

$ diffstat -s samba-4.4.0-security-2016-04-12-final.patch 

 227 files changed, 14582 insertions(+), 5037 deletions(-)

 Here’s the thing though. It wasn’t nearly as good as the hype claimed. It probably couldn’t ever be as good as the hype claimed. This is like waiting for a new Star Wars movie. You have memories from being a child and watching the first few. They were like magic back then. Nothing that ever comes out again will be as good. Your brain has created ideas and memories that are too amazing to even describe. Nothing can ever beat the reality you built in your mind.

Badlock is a similar concept.

Humans are squishy irrational creatures. When we know something is coming one of two things happen. We imagine the most amazing thing ever which nothing will ever live up to (the end result here is being disappointed). Or we imagine something stupid which almost anything will be better than (the end result here is being pleasantly surprised).

I think most of us were expecting the most amazing thing ever. We had weeks to imagine what the worse possible security flaw could be that affects Samba and Windows. Most of us can imagine some pretty amazing things. We didn’t get that though. We didn’t get amazing. We got a pretty good security flaw, but not one that will change the world. We expected amazing, we got OK, now we’re angry. If you look at twitter, the poor guy who discovered this is probably having a bad day. Honestly, there probably wouldn’t have been anything that would have lived up to the elevated expectations that were set.

All that said, I do think by doing an announcement weeks in advance created this atmosphere. If this was all quiet until today, we would have been impressed, even if it had a name. Hype isn’t something you can usually control. Some try, but by its very nature things get out of hand quickly and easily.

I’ll leave you with two bits of wisdom you should remember.

  1. Name your pets, not your security flaws
  2. Never over-hype security. Always underpromise and overdeliver.
What do you think? Tell me: @joshbressers

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