Truth About Computer Security Hysteria
Did Clay Wilson play an April Fool's joke on Congress?Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Tuesday, 12 July 2005
NEWSWEEK FELL TO the demon of embarrassment after they believed a high-level government source who claimed military interrogators flushed a copy of the Quran (Islam's holy tome) down a toilet. The news led to riots in some countries and at least 17 people died. The U.S. government immediately lashed out at Newsweek's gullibility. And Newsweek backpedaled.
Aw, poor U.S. government! How dare that mean ol' magazine take advantage of them by quoting a source who can't be held accountable for making a bizarre statement! The feds would never do the same thing--
--unless it involves computer security, of course. Then Washington's beltway will fall all over itself in a massive fit of hysterical gullibility.
On April Fool's Day, Clay Wil-- waitaminit, did I just say "April Fool's Day?"? Let me check my facts again. Yes, I really did get my dates correct. Let's start over.
On April Fool's Day, Clay Wilson at the Congressional Research Service updated his treatise on "Computer Attack and Cyberterrorism: Vulnerabilities and Policy Issues for Congress." Computer security experts spout all sorts of urban legends — and Wilson fell for one of the most recent whoppers:
"According to news sources"? The research arm of congress itself can cite nothing more than one gullible reporter? Does anyone remember when two senior U.S. officials told U.S. News & World Report how the NSA released a printer virus during the Gulf War in 1991?
Listen to me, folks. William Safire is definitely one of the more gullible reporters out there who dispenses misinformation. But when you can pretend to be a computer security expert like Clay Wilson, you can believe anyone with an unsubstantiated story — William Safire, D.K. Matai, you name it.
Indeed, computer security goddess Dan Erwin teaches courses on how to believe everything you read when it comes to computer security! "True? I don't know, but it's in the press, so I can use it" as the gospel truth. Who wants to bet Wilson took one of Erwin's courses? Who wants to bet the next update to Wilson's treatise cites U.S. News & World Report when it talks about that amazing Iraqi printer virus?
Ah, but you will find disbelievers in the crowd. It won't surprise me if some of them work with Clay Wilson at the Congressional Research Service. I can already see him standing at the water cooler, wincing as he gets ribbed over my column:
Newsweek vowed to get the approval of a senior editor before using anonymous or unsubstantiated sources. Thankfully, this new policy does not apply to Clay Wilson, William Safire, Dan Erwin, D.K. Matai, or any computer security publication like SC Magazine (which doesn't even have a corrections policy, but that's another story)...