Thought for the day:Beware Trojan Horses, stick with plastic giraffes

Hard-hitting IT commentator Dr Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.Trend Micro is giving away...

Hard-hitting IT commentator Dr Simon Moores gives his personal take on the hot issue of the day.Trend Micro is giving away plastic safari animals to its reseller channel. Hardly a day passes without another plastic giraffe appearing in the post as part of a wacky sales incentive scheme.

I'm told that once you have collected enough plastic animals and palm trees in a jungle scheme, you take a digital photo of the collection and then send it in to see if you have won the safari holiday.

Quite what the connection is between anti-virus precautions and plastic animals, I don't quite know, but to be honest, I did rather prefer the bright yellow Mont Blanc pens that Symantec was handing out once. You can't beat style. Plastic giraffe or Mont Blanc pen? It's a tough choice for some!

Staying with security vendors, IDC has released its latest report on the shape of the industry in which it has identified emerging "blended threats" as the most immediate danger facing all of us.

"A blended threat", according to IDC, "is a complex virus or worm program that targets multiple weaknesses in computer networks and is capable of doing damage in multiple ways".

Unlike traditional viruses, which rely on the user to spread the infected files, blended threats are automated, scanning the Internet and local networks for vulnerabilities and other computers to infect.

If recent logs from my Norton Personal Firewall are any measure of the threat, then it's becoming observably worse on an almost quarterly basis. I'm not seeing a single Internet session, through BT Internet from home - dial-up - that doesn't have some apparent port-scan exploit from "somewhere out there".

It is interesting that IDC dwells on the drive towards the bigger picture of "secure content management" (SCM), the integration of policies, hardware and software to provide "overall protection", rather than the piecemeal approach that most companies have in place today.

Then there is mobile security. As the Internet becomes increasingly pervasive over wireless networks into multiple device types, the same threats that plagued the desktop PC will move into the wireless space, with a potential for serious damage and disruption.

Unfortunately, I see complacency creeping into business all over again. It's been almost 12 months since I did my "end of the world" bit about Code Red on the BBC and since then, and Nimda, we haven't had a serious meltdown.

This is good news for the SCM vendors, because it implies that sales of anti-virus software are healthy, but apart from a few scares, we haven't seen anything really nasty appear on the scale of Code Red.

Much like the risk of an earthquake in San Francisco or Tokyo, we are overdue for another malicious code outbreak. If you haven't got your SCM policy in place and your anti-virus definitions aren't up to date, it's time to do something about it.

I can't promise you a Mont Blanc pen or a plastic giraffe as a reward, but peace of mind is worth much more.

> What are you doing to build immunity? >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and ramblings of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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