Aug 12 2009

Somber experts ask “where were you when the Blaster worm struck?”

If you can remember, then it's because you got paid to fight it
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Some of the computer security experts who use Twitter marked the anniversary of the Blaster worm with a somber tone. I laughed.

Mikko Hyppönen (F-Secure) made a slight error when he broadcast a tweet saying “it was 5 years ago today.” Actually, Blaster struck six years ago. Vanity Fair published an analysis piece on it five years ago, and this confused Hyppönen.

If you got paid to fight the worm, then your money pre­cludes my empathy.

Mikko’s got a lot of followers on Twitter and they took his “5 years” at face value. Re-tweeted it across the land, they did.

“Now we’re even,” I thought to myself. You see, I spelled his name wrong in my previous column, and it’s not the first time. Sheesh, I’ll probably never get the hang of it. Who cares if it’s spelled Mikkø or Mikkó or Mikkö? His error means I don’t need to grovel at his feet any more. So there!

Ah, but I digress.

Mikko’s error caused me to ask: “how can Blaster be so memorable if so many people forgot when it happened?” This, in turn, led me to paraphrase the idiotic “Michael Jackson question”:

Where were you when the Blaster worm struck?

I got a bit sarcastic on Twitter when I posted the question to my own followers. “Do you recall where you were, five years ago, when the Blaster worm struck down the Internet?” I used “five years” as an hömage to Mikko — this way, no one can correctly answer the question.

Here’s the rub. If you can remember where you were … it’s because you got paid to fight the Blaster worm. Your money precludes my empathy.


“Do you remember where you were, Rob?” As a matter of fact I do. I was in Iraq. The weather forecast for 12 Aug 03 (six years ago today!) was 122°F. Add +5° in “tent city” due to congestion, add +15° at the flightline due to surface reflection, and add +25° in helicopters due to engine heat.

I didn’t exactly have a lot of time to think about the Blaster worm that day. Our air base maintained two (!) fully staffed hospitals for wounded Americans, wounded Italians, wounded Dutch, wounded South Koreans, wounded Estonians, and of course wounded Iraqis. The sight of blood distracts me when I read email on my laptop. I’m sure my system administrator sent out an urgent alert about Blaster, but I honestly don’t remember what the alert said.

Waitaminit! Now I remember the email. It said something like “USAF’s antivirus software failed to do its job at the most critical moment…” Or words to that effect.

“Estonians, Rob?” Yeah, but that was long before every conscript in Estonia’s military died in a horrifying cyber-attack.

You do remember where you were when Estonia got cyber-attacked, don’t you?

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