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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Robert Vibert, Columnist
Friday, 16 February 2001 THE OUTBREAK OF the Kournikova virus should cause us to think about a few things:
Some anti­virus com­panies had defi­ni­tions which could de­tect this virus six months ago. What hap­pened to the others?
Some antivirus companies had definitions which could detect this virus six months ago. What happened to the others? It would seem that using a generic detection approach, as one antivirus developer did, can produce important results, like finding the new variants in a virus family without adding any specific signatures. An antivirus scanner which needs to have a specific signature for most viruses will always need to be updated for each new virus. Speaking of updates, there is an antivirus company going around making loud noises about their wonderful patents on auto-update technology. Of course, the fact that it took them hours longer than some other antivirus companies (until 5pm EST on Monday) to get a fix prepared and post it to their web site for auto or manual download is not to be mentioned in polite company. And don't talk about the fact that many of these sites could not be reached by users to get the download due to the sheer volume of traffic, which meant users suffered from another Denial of Service situation. Say, we saw that before! The exact same thing happened with Melissa and with ILoveYou. Both times, assurances were made that the bandwidth would be sufficient next time. Well, I tried and could not get through, much like others I heard from. I was denied service at the antivirus download banquet. The final bit to consider is that users don't learn. Send them a tantalizing piece of bait, and they bite. This time, it was supposed to be a photo of a blonde tennis player, "with great legs" according to one antivirus marketing representative. Last time it was a love note. Next time??? Your guess is a good as mine. The reality of trying to educate people to not open "suspect" attachments is that the influx of new users to the internet is so great, and the thrill for them of getting an "interesting" email so wonderful that the odds are against us winning this education battle. Too many people have email access, use an insecure and un-patched email program, open and download everything in sight, and generally take enough risks on the Wild Wild Web to put the rest of us time and again in the firing line of these viruses. As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.