Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Conficker Virus: Why the World Didn't End - Digits - WSJ

"So here’s where we stand now: The machines infected with Conficker, a few million by most estimates, still have the virus. And while it isn’t doing anything now, it seems likely that it will do something at some point — why else would someone bother to create and distribute it? This could happen any time — today, tomorrow, four months from now. When that happens, the most likely scenario is that Conficker will be used to send unsolicited spam emails or to steal information — bad things, to be sure, but things that millions of computers infected with other viruses are doing everyday."

The analogies being used here are terrible. Maybe the problem starts with calling these things viruses in the first place, implying that having them is inevitable, and like the common cold, something we just have to live with and in the long run relatively harmless.

Each of these things is man-made, and designed to make your computer do something that you would probably not have it do on your own.

The question to be asked is not whether a particular virus causes serious problems or not, the question is why we are blithely using products that allow these things to exist at all.

If millions of people around the world had refrigerators that randomly cut off allowing food to spoil there would be lawsuits, outrage, talks of jail-time, perp-walks, etc. The sum total of expense due to these viruses certainly exceeds the cost of AIG bonuses.

Yes, the real news here is we have become numbed to the inadequacies of our operating systems (particularly Windows) and the infrastructure surrounding them.

That a few journalists got worked up over a particular virus and its potential is far less interesting than the fact that the public isn’t worked up over the broad range of “accidents” just waiting to happen.

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