Truth About Computer Security Hysteria
The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'
Monday, 27 December 1999
MIKE QUEAR WORKS as a technocrat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He addressed
CSSPAB members the same day I did.
My ears perked up at one point when Quear noted "the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data.' "
How utterly true.
USA Today, and
other major news outlets predict a Biblical flood of
Y2K viruses. Yet a Washington Post story
risk of computer intrusion is based more on speculation than on the sort of hard evidence gathered by virus
makers." In related news, FBI NIPC director Michael Vatis finally admitted he
lacks evidence to
support his own
(Somebody should remind him what the "I" stands for in FBI.)
Sadly, the Washington Post goes on to say the risk is "definitely growing." Growing based
on what? The computer security industry collects
anecdotes, not hard evidence. Ask them about Chernobyl and
they'll tell you a half-million PCs died throughout Asia. Ask for
receipts to prove it and they'll claim they can't divulge the names of devastated clients.
"Besides, we didn't have time to catalog evidence. We battled ExploreZip right after Chernobyl
wiped out Asia..."
Here: you try to squeeze evidence from this virus expert. I'll try to squeeze blood from this turnip. Let's see
who wins. Go!
The computer security industry relies on fear to sell its products & services. Even the FBI sells a
service in this case. "Experts" prefer anecdotes because they help increase the bottom line. Scarier
anecdotes translate into higher revenues. John McAfee started
the trend more than a decade ago and it continues to this day.
It goes on unchecked because reporters assume experts base their statements on hard evidence. Why do
reporters keep making such a bad assumption? I believe they have a fetish for juicy virus
stories. (I sound like a broken record on this subject.) The media as a whole rarely suffers for what it passes
off as computer security news.
Me, take a fearmonger at face value? Bah. "The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data.' " I and other
skeptics demand proof. You should demand it, too.
"The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data.' "
OH WELL: PERHAPS Y2K viruses will destroy the Internet despite a lack of hard
evidence. Enjoy your Christmas PC while it lasts. In the meantime, check out this
on old Y2K end-of-the-world predictions...
Wait, you're squeezing the expert all wrong. You gotta grab him by the neck, see?