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What About Next Time? 24 July 2001 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Code Red, The Love Bug, The Anna Kournikova worm, Back Orifice, SubSeven, SirCam, etc, etc.

What do all these have in common -- apart from the fact that they're worms, trojans or viruses?

Yes, they're all Microsoft-specific.

Without Microsoft's lax coding and delinquent security model, none of these malicious little bits of code would have had a hope of surviving or replicating in the way they have.

Last week we were very, very lucky that the Code Red worm was written in such a manner that it was easy to dodge its cyber-bullet -- but what about next time? Will we be as lucky?

The fact that so many servers were infected so rapidly and that most IP addresses around the world were, just prior to mid-day Friday, receiving between five and ten probes per hour must surely be a sobering warning.

And now we see that, despite more than a year of repeated warnings from the industry and the media, email-borne worms such as SirCam are still proliferating at an alarming rate.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
From Yesterday...
  • Nothing to hide - nothing to Fear?... - Martin
  • Very short memories... - David
  • Have Your Say

    So what's my point?

    I think it's obvious that education isn't a particularly effective tool in the fight against worms, trojans and viruses.

    How many of those responsible for administering Microsoft IIS webservers that got hit by Code Red weren't already aware of the need to apply all security patches as soon as they became available?

    How many users of Microsoft's Outlook email program who got hit by SirCam already knew that it's a bad idea to open unsolicited attachments?

    How many users of Microsoft Windows aren't aware that they should be running an effective anti-virus program?

    Clearly the message either isn't getting through -- or people can't be relied on to act sensibly even when they do have all the facts before them.

    Now if the only victim of the stupidity we've seen recently was the idiot who ignored the warnings then I would not be so concerned -- but, in the case of a growing number of these malicious pieces of code, the effects of infection reach far beyond an idiot's own machine.

    If the Code Red worm had worked as intended, huge segments of the Net would have ground to a halt -- inconveniencing you and I -- and probably costing many businesses quite a significant amount of money in lost revenues or additional expenses (falling back to phones and faxes because email couldn't get through, etc).

    Perhaps it's time that we bought more pressure to bear on Microsoft for their absolutely appalling attention to detail in the security area?

    Now it's fair to say that creating secure software is no trivial matter so perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on them -- but on the other hand, Microsoft is no trivial company is it?

    How would you feel if you paid good money for a brand new car, only to find out that the door locks kept popping open at regular intervals when you left it parked in a public place? How would you feel if the dealer's response was simply "well we do have a fix for that but it might happen again so you'd better check with us every day just in case" -- because that's exactly what's happening with Microsoft's software.

    What good is a business computer if you can't trust it to keep your data safe when you're logged on to the Net so as to send and receive email?

    What good is a personal computer when you're constantly having to check and make sure that there isn't another security hole that requires yet another half-hour download to fix?

    There ARE alternatives to Microsoft Windows and the launch of XP might be an extremely good opportunity to reconsider your future direction in this area. The only way Microsoft are going to be forced to get serious about the security of their products is when people start saying "no thanks" to its products.

    Up to now there has been little incentive for Microsoft to do a good job -- after all, most people just keep buying their offerings whether it's secure or not -- and the design and testing of PROPERLY secure software is an expensive operation. When you're in a near-monopoly position, such expenses can be seen as an unnecessary burden on profits.

    Remember -- Microsoft's IIS webserver program is now several years old -- yet it still had such a huge hole in it that around 300,000 computers running it were compromised within a very short space of time.

    Now stop and think ... do you REALLY want to entrust your valuable personal or business data to a computer running a brand-new (and therefore far less tested) version of Microsoft's XP software?? Can you afford the risk?

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    Security Alerts
    Code Red Worm A 'Runaway Success' (7amNews - 20/07/2001)

    Solaris bug gives hackers free rein (ZDNet - 22/06/2001)

    Microsoft Admits Another 'Serious Vunerability' In IIS 7amNews - 19/06/2001)

    Trojan horse targets Word users (CNet - 14/06/2001t)

    Virus Alerts
    'Sircam' Worm Getting Hotter (Wired - 20/07/2001)

    Worm: New 'Homepage' virus rated X (ZDNet - 10/05/2001)

    New virus hits both Windows and Linux (Fairfax - 28/03/2001)

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