This question currently has 3 flags against it for "primarily opinion based". If you read it, and its edit history, at no point was it opinion based. It is quite clearly asking whether VSTs could contain malicious code (a question with an objective answer: yes) and whether there's a risk of installing them without checking them for malicious behaviour (another objective part to the question).

While it wasn't worded perfectly, it is still readable. We should be forgiving of this - the author's native language is probably not English. If you don't think a question is worded clearly, but you understand the intent, edit the question to make it clearer, or request clarification in a comment. Being pedantic and jumping to a close vote helps nobody. Remember that you can't retract a close vote, but you can retract something said in a comment.

I've seen this kind of behaviour becoming a trend recently and I'd like it to stop. It's lazy, and makes the site a toxic environment for newbies who I would like to encourage to stick around. Take the time to guide new people who haven't followed the "StackExchange way" of doing things, and you'll probably find that their next questions bring some useful content.

I welcome any opinions on the matter.

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    TLDR: BE MOAR NICE! I agree with the statement in regards to toxicity. I've seen many newcomers not familiar with the SE way digitally tarred and feathered. It's not a great way to build a community. I've seen many answers that while on point, come across as rude, arrogant, and condescending. I often wonder if these individuals would come across as such in real life, (the socially awkward genius?) or if something is lost in print. I have no doubt there are many bright & talented contributors and I always pay more attention when I see answers from certain names and avatars I recognize as such. – k1DBLITZ May 20 '15 at 13:57
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    I'd say the SE way needs to change. "We're a question and answer site!!" needs to stop being a standard response whenever something actually requires discussion and yes, opinion. This idea the world is filled with facts and answers is wrongheaded. Security in general is an opinion based discipline. Many different things need to be balanced with each other. This isn't programming (where SE came from and developed its culture) where at least on the low level there's right and wrong answers. – Steve Sether May 21 '15 at 16:04
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    Relax, this isn't ServerFault, we're not that bad. – Naftuli Kay May 21 '15 at 17:11
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    My 2¢: I started my SE career on Stack Overflow about 2 years ago. I tried my best to follow the models of questions that I had read before I joined, and it worked out pretty well. But I know for a fact that 50% of my classmates are terrible at asking questions (on SO, Sec.SE, etc; I've asked them to post on SO about our projects before...). They aren't bad people, they just aren't great writers, and a lot of them happen to be unaware of the Help Center and the SE format. So, keep in mind that even senior college students can ask not-so-great questions, and take them with a grain of salt. – Chris Cirefice May 27 '15 at 15:13

I hadn't seen that question, but I can see why it got those close votes: the final sentence is not answerable - it could be yes or no.

In principle though I agree with you - I think the question would be fine if we just deleted that line.

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    This was more of a generic thing triggered by that specific question. I think people are jumping to close questions without thinking about the most appropriate course of action. About 25% of closes I've seen in the last few weeks could've been avoided simply by asking OP to rephrase one part of it. – Polynomial May 19 '15 at 20:34
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    That is something I think we need to encourage (and by we I mean all high rep members of the community and mods) - sometimes it is easy to just click on VTC, but often a quick comment or even an edit can fix the issue. – Rory Alsop May 22 '15 at 10:12
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    That said, close votes are really "Hold" votes - and as a community, Sec.SE is pretty good at reopening after an edit or update, so close should never be seen as permanent – Rory Alsop May 22 '15 at 10:13
  • Interestingly, one post on securing domestic ISP routers I found really helpful enough that I've actively spent 20 mins looking for it again, yet it's closed. It may be broad, it is still very helpful and could become a wiki if need be. I guess posts that appear in the Close Votes queue can lead to some sort of self-fulfiling prophecy. – Adam-E Jun 6 '15 at 9:51
  • That one may be useful but it is definitely too broad for the stack exchange model. It was closed correctly. – Rory Alsop Jun 6 '15 at 9:53

100% agree. Here is a closed question that is a good example of the problem:
Metasploit ssh_enumusers stops instantly

So long user72598. We hardly knew ye. It might have been nice to keep him around since he seems to actually be gaining experience in using security tools and found a bug in Metasploit that the author of Metaploit responded to in that thread.

The help center says "Topics include but are not limited to: ... security tools." Metasploit is nothing if not a security tool. Other Metasploit topics are closed with such comments as "If you are just trying to learn Metasploit then this question is off topic here." Thus we are reduced to a forum for cutting and pasting security best practices.

I agree. I think the Close Vote queue is at fault to some extent - as soon as one person issues a close vote, the question appears on that queue, encouraging others to close it. In fact, I don't think it's even possible to vote to keep the question open, so even if 10 people think it should stay open, 5 close votes would be enough. I presume this close queue is a general stack exchange feature though, so we can't turn it off. Perhaps we could increase the rep threshold to access it?

There seems to be a lack of interesting questions at the moment. What doesn't help is that interesting ones that do appear are down voted and closed! Recent examples:

Should security documentation referencing "state sponsored exploits" be revised to include large corporations also?

What are the new security features in Windows 10?

  • I somewhat agree, though we have no control over specifics like score thresholds - that's controlled by the admins/devs. I don't think your examples are very good though - the first doesn't have any close votes (it's just at -1) and the second is something you wrote and answered that is borderline in terms of being too broad. – Polynomial May 20 '15 at 18:34
  • @Polynomial - do add any other examples if you can think of any. I tend to only remember when it's my own questions, but I do notice it on other peoples. Or maybe people just don't like me. BTW, is there actually any difference on the close queue between clicking "leave open" and "skip"? – paj28 May 20 '15 at 18:43
  • @paj28: Yes there is (or at least there should be according to the documentation) a difference between "leave open" and "skip": Edits or a sufficient number of "Leave Open" reviews will remove the question from review and immediately begin aging the close votes.. What is meant by a "sufficient number" being left to the appreciation of the admins... – WhiteWinterWolf May 21 '15 at 15:07

I share the opinion of paj28 regarding the close vote queue. I also think that the close system could be improved.

I still do not understand the choice to transparently make the "flag" link to actually cast a close vote instead of a flag once reputation is over 3K. What is the interest of having both a "close" and a "flag" link if using the "flag" link actually cast a vote? It is just confusing to me...

In all case I would think it would be more logical to link such feature to the actual flagging experience of the user. For instance once the user has got the deputy badge (80 helpful flags) then he has enough experience to distinguish what is out of topic and what is not and his flags can therefore be replaced by votes (with the appropriate replacement on the web interface...).

IMHO it does not make any sense to consider that, if a user has written a few good questions/answer, then he should surely also be also good at moderation tasks so lets prevent him from using him the flag button anymore and force him to directly cast close votes instead...

IMHO I Think people are selecting the wrong Close flag reason. Since that question is about a very specific interface of a very specific software (some sort of Music tool), I Think personally the question is "Off topic" for the second reason (that it can become obsolete very Quick). Its the same as asking "Is Steam safe to run on my computer?", its a too narrow question if you would ask me.

Its like same as asking which antivirus software is best. Even if such a question could be objective based based on some objective metering, such a answer would quickly become obsolete if a new software launches or some software shut down.

And same here, if the Company stops manufacturing that Music tool, VSTs would have no meaning anymore.

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    sebastian - actually, while it was invented by one company, it is a de facto industry standard across digital audio workstations. It isn't likely to become obsolete any time soon :-) – Rory Alsop May 19 '15 at 20:15
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    As Rory said, VSTs are an almost global standard - I can name so many pieces of software that use them just off the top of my head: Audacity, Steinberg Wavelab, Cubase, Adobe Audition, Reason, FL Studio, Ableton, Renoise, Sony Vegas - there are probably tens if not hundreds more. – Polynomial May 19 '15 at 20:32

As a close voter for that particular question, I am happy to weigh in on my thought process.

"Can X be infected?" is not a technical question. As you state in your answer, any file that is executed can be modified to perform malicious activities. The last line that was added seems to provide insight into the unasked question, "is the file I have infected?", which can only be opinion.

Looked at from another angle, the only acceptable answer is the one you supplied: "maybe".

In addition, given that this site is for InfoSec professionals, the question asked is more of a tech support question from a non-professional. I, too, want to encourage and help grow the community of professionals. As a former teacher, I understand the dangers of discouraging new learners.

My vote has nothing to do with the quality of the language used (where possible I edit to correct language issues). I often provide comments to questions and answers that I feel can be improved or modified or to fit the "StackExchange way" (I feel that most of my time is spent in the comments in order to keep the quality high and not on voting or answering).

If people would like me to retract my close vote, I am happy to do that.

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    I for one would like you to retract your close vote. You seem to have the mindset of "is there any possible reason I can close this question?" I find that mindset stands in the way of constructive discussion on the site. I could go through all your 12 historic questions and find some excuse to close one of another. The mindset you should be using is "is there a major reason to close this question?" – paj28 May 22 '15 at 11:27
  • LoL I'm not sure how to respond. I thought I was clear that I saw a major reason to close that was consistent with other valid reasons to close. – schroeder May 22 '15 at 12:35
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    What are you LoLing at? I can see three minor reasons in your answer, and nothing major. – paj28 May 22 '15 at 12:42
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    I'm LoLing because I lay out my logic for my actions and you respond with a mild personal attack concerning my mindset and research into my own questions. Every one of my questions is at the mercy of the community to close, should they choose. Many of my questions in other SE sites have been closed for reasons that those communities had in one way or another. If you want to have a discussion over what you think is minor that I think is major, then let's do that. – schroeder May 22 '15 at 13:00
  • Ok, you could start by clarifying what you think the major reason to close this question is. – paj28 May 22 '15 at 16:00
  • By the way, I don't think your questions are bad - quite the opposite in fact. But consider your top rated one about teaching a loved one. That could be closed as "too broad" or "opinion based". I don't think it should be - but I feel that's the way you've judged the original question that sparked this thread. – paj28 May 22 '15 at 16:05
  • @paj28 I thot I already had. I see the "last line" as not a secondary question, but context to the underlying question - that makes the way the question is asked an "X/Y" type question. The main concern would appear to be "is this file infected?" It's unanswerable and opinion. If my analysis is NOT correct, then the question boils down to, "can a file be infected?", which would then be either a duplicate of any number of past questions or obvious. – schroeder May 22 '15 at 16:25
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    My interpretation of the question is completely different. We all know that it's safe to open a txt file from an untrusted source, and dangerous to open an exe file. He's asking if it's safe to open a vst file. I don't see any indication of an X/Y question, or "is this particular file infected?" I think some of the wording (e.g. DLL, anti-virus) is unfortunate, but reflects his lack of security experience rather than a poor question. – paj28 May 22 '15 at 16:37
  • I believe that "can X be infected" is a technical question. And the answer is "yes it can". It is better to not close a question based on what we might think the user really wanted to ask, This crystal ball way of thinking is not objective – borjab May 26 '15 at 16:34
  • @borjab exactly - any file can be infected, making it not a technical question. – schroeder May 26 '15 at 16:35
  • A trivial answer does not convert it into less technical. And some files are safer than others. A TXT could be exploted by a bug in the editor. But a dll is much more dangerous in a different level. – borjab May 26 '15 at 16:49

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