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Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Symantec 2.5 years ahead of first Java applet virus

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Tuesday, 25 August 1998 A LEGITIMATE JAVA applet virus came to light thanks to a calm Symantec press release. And when I say "calm," I mean it. They could have easily milked the Strange Brew virus for its hysteria value. Well-deserved kudos to Symantec for treating it the way they did. For the record, Symantec officially completed a Java applet virus scanner on 4/4/96, roughly 2.5 years before finding a Java applet virus. I spoke to Carey Nachenberg about Strange Brew the other day: according to him, it didn't force Symantec to change any code. They merely inserted a new string in their virus definition file and started distributing the Java virus detector. Solomon's (the firm recently acquired by Network Associates) also offers a Java applet virus scanner, according to a Usenet message posted by Graham Cluely. It may take other competitors a short while to catch up, but Nachenberg insists Strange Brew uses an ineffective transmission vector. The antivirus industry has the luxury of time on its side. Oh, one last thing: Strange Brew does not qualify as the first "cross platform" virus. Numerous Microsoft Word macro viruses cross platforms, for example.