Virus Writing: Not Fun, Not Funny

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There was an amusingly understated headline on one of Jupitermedia's sites last week. It read: MyDoom Testing Your Patience?

Why, yes it is. It is indeed. In fact, all of the Internet's various cyber-nuisances -- virus writers, hackers, spammers -- are testing the patience of virtually anyone who depends on networking and Internet technology, from Fortune 500 CIOs to grandparents on dial-up who merely want to download pictures of their grandkids, not some 14-year-old scriptkiddie's idea of a kewl practical joke.

I say "virtually anyone" because some Linux diehards think it's a hoot that the MyDoom virus on Sunday shut down the Web site of SCO Group with what is being called the biggest Denial of Service attack ever. SCO, of course, is the devil incarnate to the Linux community because it is aggressively alleging copyright ownership of crucial pieces of the open-source operating system.

Here are a couple of schadenfreude-ish comments from the discussion boards at AntiOnline, an IT community site.

"Looks like sco are getting their own back."

"Bouhahaha www.sco.com unreachable."

Today, if all goes according to MyDoom's schedule, a variant of the mass-mailing virus will attack Microsoft . This too is sure to elicit great joy from the legions of Microsoft haters, though the bad news for them is that MyDoom.B doesn't pack nearly the punch as the original, which hit the Internet one week ago today. Alas, the evil Redmond Empire will likely see Wednesday's dawn.

I'm no Microsoft cheerleader, and I want the open source movement continue to flourish, but it's not hard to see who the bad guys are here -- the virus writers.

The worldwide economic cost of the MyDoom virus approached $1 billion in the first 24 hours alone, according to London security research firm mi2g, as organizations battled to keep servers and networks from being overwhelmed by the rapidly propagating virus. Clearly, the final tally will reach into the billions.

And there will be more viruses to come, worse viruses, as these authors of mayhem continue their twisted efforts to top each other.

None of this is good for the global economy, nor does it bode well for the future of the Internet. It's good to know that many, maybe even most, ardent Linux supporters and Microsoft/SCO bashers see the larger picture.

Some more comments from AntiOnline:

"Don't forget that Microsoft will be next . . . So companies lose big bucks. Now I know that MS can handle to lose some, and SCO as well, but what if this is done against a small organization that can't afford to lose money online? What if it was done to you?"

"All jokes aside, this is a very, very serious matter, despite how the Gnu/Linux community or anyone else for that matter feels about SCO or Microsoft. The bad guys (the worm launchers) have made it so that the good guys will probably lose some type of right or privilege, and also gives the government room to step in and pass legislation on certain things."

Given how the U.S. government botched its spam legislation, it's hard to have a lot of confidence in its ability to effectively tackle viruses.

At least SCO and Microsoft are trying to do something. Each has set its own $250,000 bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of MyDoom's authors. We'll find out soon enough if it works.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear what readers think could or should be done to win the war against virus writers and their ilk. Suggestions can be e-mailed to me. If they're decent, and legal, we'll post them soon.

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