Love bug was just another spurt from the virus volcano

Tech talk

Tech talk

Simon Moores

It is not unlikely that the same people who were caught by the Love Bug, Melissa, Chernobyl and ExploreZip, may still fall victim to the next virus to hit.

This does not reflect well on the industry's efforts to educate the general PC population about content security.

In my own case, I received a number of LoveLetter e-mails from clients which immediately caught my attention, sufficiently to e-mail warnings to my contacts at Sky News and the BBC. Too late, within an hour, they were already crippled, as were tens of thousands of companies throughout the world.

My guess is that we have three to six months before the next crisis, and, like some slumbering volcano, the tremors are steadily increasing in violence and indeed cost to industry.

It seems like a very long time ago that Alan Solomon called me at home one afternoon to run a sanity check on an idea he had. Soloman was chairman of the IBM PC User Group and his idea was anti-virus software. At the time, PCs were still relatively unsophisticated and more importantly, unconnected.

Since then software has become increasingly bloated or should I say feature rich. Thanks to the software suppliers, it is also an increasingly co-operative target for the virus writers.

Most users barely scratch the surface of their software, but certain software developers, and in particular Microsoft, insist on including the powerful and often hidden features that invite abuse from the disaffected in our society.

Already, the anti-virus companies are talking openly of a new type of threat - one which simply involves receiving the e-mail and previewing the message to release the payload. Given the reactive nature of the anti-virus business, it appears that another significant and damaging disruption to business is inevitable.

It is this danger, which will speed many companies towards the rapid adoption of a centralised and PC-free application service provider solution to their IT. Others will attempt to tighten up on their content security policies and anti-virus software licences.

The remainder, and arguably the great majority, will hope that the industry will be smart enough to find a solution to the threat before the volcano buries their corporate data under mountains of digital ash.

Simon Moores is chairman of the Windows NT Forum and Java Forum

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