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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Rob Rosenberger

Prepare for the next virus crisis before it occurs

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Monday, 10 April 2000 SYMANTEC LEARNED A valuable lesson during last year's Melissa hysteria. Namely, they learned antivirus firms can never have too much Internet bandwidth. Symantec recently quadrupled their capacity, and they'll double it again later this summer for an 800% total increase in bandwidth.
Symantec's pro­ac­tive de­ci­sion brings up an inter­esting ques­tion. How do anti­virus firms plan for their mass-panic band­width needs?
All this, just so they can withstand the crush of future "virus crises." I kid you not. "Eight-fold increase" takes on a whole new meaning when you look at the numbers. A spokeswoman confirmed Symantec now averages 845GB per day just for software updates. Rival firms experience similar bandwidth woes. A media-inspired virus crisis can easily swamp vendors, making them all but inaccessible via telephone or Internet. This leads to an interesting question: how do antivirus firms plan for their mass-panic bandwidth needs? It affects profits if they pay for what they almost never use — yet customers lose faith if they can't update whenever the press screams about an über-virus. Personally, I believe "distributed updating" offers vendors the best proactive benefits right now. Symantec's recent deal with PIPEX, for example, will shuttle panicky users to local servers. This means each PIPEX customer represents one less person who taxes Symantec's bandwidth during a media blitzkrieg. On the down side, distributed updating will make it easier for us to "score our next antivirus fix." It will augment our addiction to inadequate virus detection methodologies. I said it before and I'll say it again: we need to overcome our obsessive-compulsive urge to update antivirus software after the fact. And we certainly need to overcome our reflexive urge to update during a media-induced panic. In the final analysis, though, Symantec wants to prepare for the next virus crisis before it occurs. We should all follow their lead.