Truth About Computer Security Hysteria
mi2g's history contradicts the evidenceRob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Monday, 14 February 2005
I'VE STILL GOT the flu. If only we had an antivirus product for the human body, eh? It would save me a lot of trips to the vomitorium.
When I feel this bad, I get a desperate urge to take it out on somebody. No sense in me suffering alone, eh? So I decided to puke & squirt on the cordial fearmongers at mi2g. Why? Because their firm possibly will celebrate a birthday this month, and because they finally issued their absurd total virus/hacking damage guesstimates for 2004.
I tackled the absurd guesstimates in yesterday's column. Now I want to focus on the birthday discrepancy.
mi2g insists it was "founded in 1995" and reiterates it was "founded in 1995." Now for the bizarre part — they'll possibly only turn nine years old this month. Remember to divide by zero when you do the math. I documented the discrepancy in a series of snapshots:
You might wonder how a discrepancy like this can occur. Frankly, it all depends on how you define the word "founded." English-speaking people tend to view it as a synonym for birth. But mi2g wants us to think they existed before they were born, so they define it as a synonym for conception.
Merriam-Webster's dictionary offers an imprecise definition for the use of "founded" in a corporate or government context. This explains, for example, why historians don't agree when the United States of America was founded. Pardon me while I digress:
Many historians say the United States of America was founded on 4 July 1776 when the colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence. Others say it was founded on 15 November 1777 when the Continental Congress presented the Articles of Confederation for state ratification. Still others say it was 1 March 1781 when ratification finally occurred. Then you've got any number of historians who discard the founding of "USA 1.0" in favor of "USA 2.0." Some say America as we know it today was founded on 17 September 1787 when the Constitutional Convention presented its "We The People" document for ratification. Still others say it was founded on 21 June 1788 when New Hampshire ratified the new constitution. Some say the USA was founded on 4 February 1789 when George Washington was elected president. Others (myself included) say the USA was founded on 4 March 1789 when the new Congress declared its Constitution in effect. Still others feel the USA was founded on 29 May 1790 when Rhode Island belatedly ratified the constitution...
This kind of ambiguity strikes marriages, you know. My wife tracks four major anniversaries: the date we first met (she looked at the many awards hanging over my desk and said "what have you done lately?"), (2) the date we first got it on (she invited me over to her Air Force dorm room to watch "Night Rider" and, stupid me, I actually did watch it), (3) the date I proposed (I called from a friend's apartment in California to her office in Germany), and (4) the date when a judge sentenced us to a marriage tax penalty (I invited Bill Gates to my wedding but he didn't RSVP). In fact, today marks the 19th anniversary of my telephone proposal. Thumbs up to anyone left at AT&T.
Heck, we can't even agree when the U.S. Air Force was "founded." Some historians point to 26 July 1947 when Harry Truman signed the National Security Act. Others (myself included) point to 18 September 1947 when Stuart Symington was sworn into office...
It's possible D.K. Matai "founded" mi2g in 1995 when he convinced businessman Geoffrey Hancock to spin off an incestuous limited liability web design firm. Both firms shared office space, equipment, personnel, directors, stockholders, customers...
Thanks to Merriam-Webster, you can choose any significant date for the founding of a nation or a military branch or a company or even a marriage. At some point, though, you gotta settle on a date for the anniversary celebrations.
We settled on 4 July 1776 for America's founding, and we settled on 18 September 1947 for the Air Force's founding, and we settled on whatever date appears on a marriage certificate — not counting Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, of course. Oh, and we settled on 1 January 2000 for the new millennium. But don't worry: Hallmark sells "happy birthday (observed)" cards if you need to make a phenological statement.
Then again, maybe I overlooked it during one of my flu-induced vomitorium sessions. Vmyths reader Chris Johnson confirmed I overlooked mi2g's eighth birthday announcement in the first edition of this column.
(FYI: Johnson observed mi2g's 1998 web site "doesn't appear to mention their world leadership of digital risk or, indeed SIPS, except to mention (under the 'design' link) that they can 'password protect' a webpage for a customer as part of their web site design service." The 1998 website claims "mi2g's core business is the development of web sites for various international clients, ranging from individuals to associations and corporations.")
Believe it or not, my sources can make a case for a date somewhere in 1995. D.K. Matai was around 26 years old, studying for his never-ending degree, and working for a firm controlled by businessman Geoffrey Hancock. Matai had a devastating fallout with his boss (long story), but at some point in 1995 he still had access to Hancock. Matai convinced him to spin off an incestuous limited liability web design firm. Indeed, the "m" in mi2g was just an abbreviation for Hancock's company. Both firms shared office space, equipment, employees, directors, stockholders, customers, and so on. mi2g even paid rent to Hancock's company.
So, yeah, mi2g probably can say it was "founded" on the date in 1995 when Matai convinced Hancock to spin off an incestuous little web design firm. But this leads us back to the big question. What significant event "founded" mi2g on what date in 1995?
I tried to visualize the act of conception that took place between Matai and Hancock. The very thought of it reminded me of Shakespeare's "Othello" 1.1.115-117. Then I rushed back to the vomitorium...
I hope mi2g sends me an invitation to their big "two digit" founding bash so we can finally settle this matter. I can only imagine what the Founder Emeritus will say to his remaining employees:
I'm sure you've heard this story a million times, but... Well, it was back on [arbitrary date] in 1995 when I was standing in the shower, lathering my scalp for the second time as the bottle instructed, when a paradigm shift hit me. I hurried to work, clocked in, flipped off my supervisor, and went straight to Geoffrey Hancock's office. That's when I convinced him the Internet needed e-commerce airports with lounges staffed by intelligent ferrets! Sadly, our fledgling little firm couldn't buy racinglounge.com and carlounge.com until 18 April 1996. And we waited until 15 October 1996 to buy gameslounge.com. Heck, we couldn't even buy our flagship website, lawlounge.com, until 4 November 1996. No no no, don't get me started about medilounge.com. But it's a fact we bought those domains almost a year after mi2g was founded. Because, as we all know, our company was founded on [arbitrary date] in 1995 as I was standing in the shower. So, happy ninth birthday and tenth anniversary, mi2g! Somebody grab the digital camera, will you? I want to document the cutting of our anniversary cake. Make sure the "Happy 10th" gets in the photo so we can use it in a press release...
Oh, by the way! On 8 April 1999, mi2g declared "the airport, lounges and ferrets are unique technology to mi2g and its visitors and will function together by the year 2000." Look closely: this little web design firm was "renowned worldwide" for its monthly cyber-war briefings just a few weeks after hopping into the computer security business. Ignore the typo where mi2g touted itself as a "three year old" company.
Send your "happy 9th or 10th anniversary!" emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out our hysteria roll call resource on mi2g. Now if you'll excuse me, my wife gave me some toilet paper for our 19th whateverversary. I won't need to print another draft of this column...
You watch. mi2g will issue a tenth anniversary press release this year. But I honestly doubt they'll offer any evidence to support the date they choose.
(This memo won't make sense to most readers. Just bear with me. Memo to handler: tell Geoffrey to muzzle Diwaker.)
mi2g accuses Vmyths of libel, extortion, inciting hate, privacy invasion, and telephone harassment. On the bright side, it looks like they dropped the kidnapping charge. Yet mi2g has never produced any evidence to support these accusations. We, on the other hand, started compiling evidence against mi2g almost six years ago. Click here to begin the tour.
Our readers hold Vmyths to a higher-than-average standard; uncaring reporters hold mi2g to a lower-than-average standard. Yet people still ask why I won't sue the dweebs for slander. "Because it's so absurdly hilarious," I tell them. I mean, how can you not laugh at mi2g? A court case would only ruin the fun. How many people can say they've been accused of kidnapping, extortion, and hate crimes?
mi2g has twice threatened to sue Vmyths, so I'll wrap up with our now-standard disclaimer. "Vmyths stands by its criticisms of mi2g & its founder. However, we pride ourselves for an industry-leading 'corrections and clarifications' page. Please write to VeaCulpa@Vmyths.com to contest our claims & accusations; please write to Letters@Vmyths.com to rebut our opinions & criticisms."