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Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Only antivirus firms will survive Earth's predicted demise

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Friday, 2 July 2004 Rob Rosenberger I'LL MAKE AN absolutely serious prediction in this column. I just want to carve it in stone before an oft-predicted über-virus destroys the inner planets of our solar system.
When the big über-virus strikes, only the anti­virus firms will sur­vive it. Their cus­to­mers will perish and they'll be left standing all alone.
First, though, you must understand why I believe I can make this prediction. Know this: industry sources approach me on a routine basis. They work for an antivirus firm in customer support, or they work as a virus expert, or they work as an intern. You'll find no salesmen and only one PR agent among them. Some of my industry sources openly admit to an agenda; others just like to gossip or want to debate my columns. I listen to whatever my industry sources want to tell me. Know this, too: disgruntled employees approach me at the rate of ... oh, let's say once every 15 months. They worked for an antivirus firm in customer support, or as an intern, or as a programmer, or whatever. (Again, no salesmen.) They worked for Network Associates, or Symantec, or Trend Micro, or mi2g, or Solomon's, or a few other firms you probably never heard of. They quit in a huff or they get laid off or they get fired, and they want to bleed their hearts out, and so they find me. I don't hear from disgruntled employees very often and I listen to them very carefully. Do you know what I keep failing to hear from all of these people? They keep failing to tell me about viruses that run rampant in their antivirus firms. Their clients' computers keep getting infected while the antivirus firms' computers remain clean. I'll admit one person told me about viruses that run rampant on his competitors' networks. But they don't seem to run rampant on his own firm's network. Go figure. Okay, so now you know why I believe I can make the following prediction in absolute seriousness. Here we go. When an oft-predicted über-virus finally strikes — when it reformats Earth's magnetosphere and crashes the Deimos moon into Mars — I predict only the antivirus firms will survive it. Their customers will perish and they'll be left standing all alone. Ta da! An absolutely serious prediction, folks. Enjoy your fragile utopia while it lasts. It'll be just like in that classic "Twilight Zone" episode where David Wayne realizes he'll be the only one lefBurgess Meredith realizes he's the only one left standing after a hydrogen bomb levels his city. Rod Serling called the episode "Time Enough For Reading," but the antivirus industry would call it "Time Enough For Reverse-Engineering."
Only anti­virus firms de­ploy a real anti­virus so­lu­tion. Every­one else be­lieves anti­virus soft­ware must fail to stop some viruses — and so they build failure into their "solutions."

TIME ENOUGH FOR an anecdote. A secretary at Symantec moved on a few years ago, perhaps due to her husband's career. She wrote me to ask why her new employer couldn't stop virus attacks. (Don't ask me why she didn't write to her former coworkers at Symantec. Perhaps she did write to them but they couldn't give her a straight answer. I don't know.) Every week her new network administrators would fire off hysterical emails, warning the entire firm about a virus rampaging throughout the company. Every week a bleary-eyed technician would lunge out of an elevator, waving his arms and shouting "log off immediately until I confirm your antivirus software is updated!" This former Symantec secretary wondered if her new employer's problems stemmed from their use of Network AssoMcAfee products. I told her the truth: it wouldn't matter even if they switched to Symantec products. Only antivirus firms deploy a real antivirus solution. Everyone else believes antivirus software must fail to stop some viruses — and so they build failure into their "solutions." Mind you, I didn't say it to the secretary as succinctly as I said it here. I didn't even come close. I pretty much just babbled in my reply to her. It took me a number of years to distill the two sentences you see in the previous paragraph. This secretarial anecdote leads back to my prediction. When the oft-predicted über-virus wipes out the dot-mercury & dot-venus & dot-earth domains, I predict only the antivirus firms will survive it. Their customers will perish and they'll be left standing all alone, just like Burgess Meredith in that classic "Twilight Zone" episode. Or ... hmmm. Maybe we should use a different Hollywood analogy here...
ANTIVIRUS FIRMS MIGHT play the role of Charlton Heston in the movie "The Omega Man." In the scene where Ben-Hur fires bullets at bio-war zombies, just imagine the antivirus industry firing ping packets at cyber-war zombies.
You're doomed if you don't work for an anti­virus firm. En­joy that fragile utopia while it lasts, folks.
Or they might play the role of George Peppard in the movie "Damnation Alley." In the scene where Banacek leaves fellow traveler Paul Winfield to face a horrific death as a protein source for quadrillions of metallic cockroaches, just imagine each cockroach has an IPv6 address and lives in a VPN tunnel. Heh heh. "Banacek leaves fellow traveler Paul Winfield to face a horrific death." That is sooo like the antivirus industry. Or they might play the role of Antonio Sabato Jr. in the made-for-TV-movie "Fatal Error." In the scene where... uh, in the scene where... okay, okay, I admit it. I never watched "Fatal Error" and I don't know Antonio Sabato Jr. from Antonio Mata Jr. So there. Which reminds me. We need to add another cliché to the Movie Cliché List. "When a computer virus threatens mankind, antivirus experts are nowhere to be found. The virus is always defeated by someone who has little or no computer security expertise. Corollary: if the computer virus is defeated by two or more people, one of them will be a beautiful woman." No, wait! I've got it! The perfect Hollywood analogy. The antivirus industry can play John Connor in the movie "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines." Man, talk about the ultimate antivirus movie! Connor, like any good antivirus expert, knows "Skynet" — or, in our case, the Netsky virus — will take over the world and dominate mankind if he doesn't do something about it. He seeks face-time with generals, just like any good antivirus expert would. But in the end the prophesy of doom jumps up & bites mankind anyway, just like the antivirus experts predicted.
General Brewster:
SkynetThe Internet? The virus has infected Skynetthe Internet?
John Connor:
SkynetThe Internet is the virus. It's the reason everything's falling apart.
Terminator:
SkynetThe Internet has become self aware. In one hour it will conduct a massive nuclear attack on its enemy.
"Our des­tiny was never to stop Judg­ment Day. It was merely to sur­vive it..."
General Brewster:
What enemy?
John Connor:
Us. Humans.
Who can forget the immortal words Vesselin Bontchev (FRISK) wrote for John Connor? "Our destiny was never to stop Judgment Day. It was merely to survive it." ...Then again, I guess it doesn't really matter which Hollywood analogy we use. Face it: you're doomed if you don't work for an antivirus firm. Enjoy that fragile utopia while it lasts, folks.