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Anthrax? Phooee! 15 October 2001 Edition
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Along with the threat from US DOJ prosecutors, the Open Source software movement, and a general groundswell of unease with the company's new software licensing; Microsoft appears to also be facing a bioterrorism attack.

According to reports published on the weekend, an envelope containing nudie pictures and anthrax spores has been sent from a Malaysian address to an MS office in Nevada.

Workers who might have come in contact with the spores have taken medical tests to see whether they are infected -- the results should be known tomorrow.

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So, was this just someone who has been pushed over the edge by one too many blue screens of death? Or is it an acknowledgement that the commercial infrastructure of the West is now so heavily reliant on Microsoft code that terrorists felt a symbolic attack was warranted?

Although this low-level biological attack was clearly ineffective, perhaps we ought step back for a moment and consider what would/will happen if/when anti-American crackers find the first holes in Windows XP and begin exploiting them by way of viral attacks.

So far, even the most effective of the computer worms and viruses we've seen have all suffered from stupid oversights that have severely limited their capability to inflict harm on the systems they infect.

Code Red was stupid enough to hard-code the IP number for the Whitehouse.gov website rather than use the domain name -- so the Feds were able to side-step the attack by simply changing that IP. This effectively tripped up what could have been a massive distributed denial of service attack.

Even the Love Bug worm had some fundamental programming errors that effectively limited its ability to wreak havoc.

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Now what happens if these crazy pro-Taliban crackers do their homework and get it right?

A covert worm and/or virus that spreads slowly and silently, gradually winding its way into XP-based computer systems right across the Western world, using the undoubted security holes that all new software has is a real possibility. Then, at a specific time or in response to a single cue -- it leaps into action and starts subtly corrupting data, such that the changes are so small and sparse they go unnoticed and make their way into the backup systems of major corporations.

A few months later, a full-blown melt-down could be triggered -- deleting files and screwing up databases.

Of course restoring backups would not solve the problem because those backups would still have the subtle corruptions that will render the data in them unreliable.

The cost to business would be incredible. The effects would be widespread and long-lasting.

Anthrax? Forget it. Cyber-terrorism (done properly) is a far more dangerous threat.

But beware of powdery attachments to your snail-mail all the same ;-)

Banksie Knows His Stuff
There's a piece of law on the books that says candidates must pull down their billboards and stop all advertising immediately prior to an election.

This weekend we had local body elections and, at first glance, all the candidates appear to have followed the rules and stopped their pitches the day before the election was held -- but what about their websites?

Well a quick check on Saturday showed that Christine Fletcher and Matt McCarten's websites were still up and promoting those candidates -- but wiley old John Banks' site looked like this.

Funny isn't it -- after an almost complete lack of attention to detail in respect to his website's design, he was the only one who followed the letter of the law.

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Security Alerts
Microsoft tightens software security (CNet - 16/08/2001t)

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)

Virus Alerts
Tripple-threat Worm Strikes (Aardvark - 19/09/2001)

New worm spreading slowly (CNet - 4/09/2001)

Trojan horse breaks Windows PCs (ZDNet - 24/08/2001)

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