Cybersecurity, Emergency Preparedness

Microsoft Accidentally Poses the Question: Who Needs Hackers?

Microsoft began shipping its October 2018 Windows 10 Update last week (October 2, to be exact), and for most users, it was supposed to be good news. The update was to rollout using machine learning to detect any potential software/hardware integration problems that could interfere with a quick, painless installation. Despite their massive effort to make updating a more pleasant experience for end users, Microsoft made some folks lives downright miserable.

shocked man in front of his computer

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As the week drew to a close, reports started to come from some early updaters that somehow, the October 2018 update had permanently deleted one or more file systems from their computer. For some, the bug took out their Documents folder, for others, their Pictures. Obviously, Microsoft is investigating the issue, but as of now there’s no solution. To help mitigate any future losses, the company has pulled the update while they work on a fix.

As for anyone who’s file systems were affected during the update, there’s not much they can do to recover the lost data. Peter Bright with Ars Technica says that “although file recovery/undelete tools might be able to salvage the deleted files, the only reliable way of recovering them is to restore from a backup.” While most business users have backup systems in place for just such a reason, many home users and smaller businesses might not have a rigorous recovery system in place.

Bright notes that this bug calls Microsoft’s Insider Program, which solicits feedback and bug reports from the Windows community prior to during product testing. Though, the fault might lie with Microsoft rather than the Insider Program community. Community members took to Twitter to point out that the data loss bug had been reported through the Window’s 10 Feedback Hub as far back as 3 months ago.

This highlights some of the glaring gaps in Microsoft’s testing program. The Insider Program community, through the Feedback Hub, is doing the work of a dedicated testing team, without the stringent oversight that an in-house team would receive. As Bright points out, Microsoft laid off a number of dedicated product testers in 2014 as part of job cuts that hit 18,000 employees, mostly related to its Nokia acquisition.

Clearly, Microsoft will need to take steps not only to address the massive vulnerability, but also to examine why feedback related to a data loss bug seems to have been if not ignored than at least pushed aside.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that everyone needs to have a backup plan in place should an emergency arise. While a devastating data loss bug getting shipped with a software update is a rare occurrence, there are other, more probable avenues for data loss, such as a cyberattack or even power failure.