Sep 27 2010

SANS “Threat Level” remains green over Stuxnet hysteria

A small dose of sanity amidst the media's dementia
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Computer industry reporters are chomping at the bit to write stories about the Stuxnet worm. Maybe it’s because they desperately want to win a Pulitzer to make up for their high school newspaper days when the principle nix’d their thoroughly documented exposé on how David Sheehan ran away like a coward after he jumped Bob Van Overmeiren—

—ah, but this isn’t about me, is it? Let’s get back on track.

Stuxnet hypemeister Nancy Bartels grabbed Joe Weiss’ trumpet and blew reveille for the coming of the digital Antichrist!

Longtime reader “xfmrhsd” observed “[it] was a quiet decade as far as virus hype goes.” An overwhelming number of computer security reporters started their news beats after the Melissa virus, after the ILoveYou virus, after the Code Red worm, after the Nimda worm, and after the Blaster worm all destroyed the Internet. These new cub reporters desperately want to take home a Pulitzer for their coverage of the world‘s most newest diabolical virus the world has ever seen.

(Reporters who cover the death of the Internet routinely use “world” twice in an awkward sentence like I just did. It helps convey to their readers just how diabolical Stuxnet really is.)

Credulous reporters can find any number of experts out there who likewise chomp at the bit for free publicity. These people would drink free ink from a spigot if you let them. They’ll tell reporters anything they want to here. I mean, look at Joe Weiss, the hysterical SCADA expert I bashed in 2003. His protégé, Nancy Bartels, essentially slashed her wrists in Weiss’ company blog so reporters can use her blood as ink.

Bartels actually claims — and I quote her in context — Stuxnet is our “worst fears realized.”

Reach for your Bibleswhatever religious tomes you hold sacred, folks, because Bartels grabbed Weiss’ trumpet and blew reveille for the coming of the digital Antichrist, followed by that long-haired peacenik with his robes dipped in blood.

Waitaminit, is that right? The Stuxnet worm is our “worst fears realized”? I mean, yeah, sure, here comes the binary Satan—

—except Weiss himself claimed in 2003 he could envision far worse scenarios than Stuxnet. So, if his Girl Friday now claims Stuxnet is our “worst fears realized,” then … well, I guess maybe I’ll skip the cyanide capsule until Weiss himself spits into the bugle’s mouthpiece. Besides, I don’t think this capsule would kill me anyway: the German calligraphy on the package is faded but it translates to “use by Apr 45.” I’ll wait for the next SCADA worm before I off myself.

(What, too soon?)

“We normally change the [threat level] if there is some­thing new. Stuxnet is over a year old.”

Speaking of worst-case scenarios … my own Biblical scrolls start off with “And lo, Bartels’ crimson blood did rain down on the hippie’s blanched robes.” But like I said, this isn’t about me. Let’s get back on track.


I went looking for my old “Euthanize the Internet” column — you know: the one I refer to when virus experts insist humanity will perish for sure this time around.

I was rummaging through my website for the URL when … out of the blue … almost as an afterthought … it occurred to me…

SANS shows a green “Threat Level”!!!!!!

“Self,” I wondered, “did these guys not get the wake-up call?” I’m as willing as the next guy to heed Bartels’ bugling, but I’d really like some company to join me when I depart this earthly plane. So I asked SANS why their threat level showed such a calm, relaxing color.

Marcus Sachs (remember him?) replied a few minutes later with a terse answer:

“We normally change the [threat level] if there is something new. Stuxnet is over a year old. The stories about Iran are new but the malware is not.”

Hmmm. Okay, so maybe Bartels overreacted when she blew hot air into heaven’s horn. But she only overreacted just a little bit. A tiny overreaction. Small. Minuscule. A barely measurable overreaction approaching zero.

Okay, and so maybe I won’t die by my own hand to avoid the wrath of this Stuxnet worm. Next time, when Bartels says it’s time to go, I’m going to prep myself for a Klingon death ritual

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