Thought for the day: Judgment of doom

Millions of PC users are still suffering from Blaster, so imagine the devastation MyDoom will cause, says Simon Moores.

Simon Moores  

Millions of PC users are still suffering from Blaster, so imagine the devastation MyDoom will cause, says Simon Moores.  




You know the joke. "If you play a Windows XP installation CD-Rom backwards, you hear a message from Satan. Even worse... if you play it forwards, it installs Windows XP."

Joking aside, Microsoft is doing its best to round up those PC users whose machines are unprotected by anti-virus software. With the arrival of MyDoom.b, the company's job has become even tougher.

Last week, having beaten one blizzard home, only hours later a second blizzard of a different sort forced me to pull the plug on my internet connection for the first time - the arrival of hundred upon hundreds of copies of the MyDoom virus, which caused the Norton anti-virus message to flicker constantly, blocking any work on my screen.

Forget Bagle. The first month of 2004 is over and already we have seen the first "big one" of what is likely to be many more to come.

MyDoom allegedly originated from the dark side of the Linux community with a grudge to settle against SCO, but a second variant is going after Microsoft as part of a distributed denial-of-service attack from a PC near you.

MyDoom is nastier than most, following a trend which becomes increasingly more malevolent as months pass. Infected computers become potential zombies allow malicious hackers to install a Trojan horse program, key logging software or simply explore files without the user knowing. Attackers just have to connect to the open port and upload spyware or any other program they might wish to.

Last year¹s curse, Blaster, is believed to have spread to hundreds of thousands of systems. While most businesses have cleaned up the worm, Microsoft has found that a large number of home users are still unknowingly infected, which is why the company has released a tool to expedite the cleaning-up process as the worm remains in sufficient numbers to cause contention problems across the web.

Only last week, detective chief superintendent Len Hynds, the director of The National Hi-tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), warned that the rapid growth in broadband and third-generation mobile telephony would provide a window of opportunity for organised crime.

Security company Clearswift has also described the SoBig virus as an inspiration to cyber-criminals and observed a clear switch in the motives of the virus writer, with intellectual challenge or simple-minded cybervandalism being superseded by financial gain as the primary motive for malware coding.

All this leaves the end user between a rock and a hard place. Cybercriminals on the one side, queuing up to take a pop at any unprotected PCs or networks, and a software environment which is only as strong as its weakest link - the millions of totally unprotected PCs with owners naive  enough to fall for MyDoom¹s basic social engineering trick.

You have to feel sorry for Microsoft because it is going to have to carry most of the blame for MyDoom and whatever follows next.

We¹ve had six months of advertising and investment telling people to, at the very least, buy an up-to-date anti-virus product and you know what, they don¹t take the blindest bit of notice.

"It¹s my bread and butter, removing viruses", says the owner ofmy local computer store. Customers are still coming in with Blaster and, as I talk to him, almost by coincidence, a man appears carrying a PC which, he tells us, needs to have Blaster removed.

Almost 20 years ago, I ran the first anti-virus seminar in London with a friend called Dr Alan Solomon. Alan demonstrated to the audience how a simple virus could destroy a hard disc and even cause an IBM PC to overheat and die.

Nobody was particularly worried because very few people were connected to anything more than their printer, but today it¹s a different story. We know that each attack is getting worse, and even well-protected businesses are at the mercy of their partner chain or your next-door neighbour with his brand new broadband connection to Kazaa.

Government is making an effort, business is trying harder and Microsoft is trying frantically, but the internet we depend on is, increasingly, at the mercy of the public¹s grasp of computing realities. May God have mercy on us all.

What do you think?

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Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of eGovernment and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit 

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