Skip to main content
Samba Parti

I'm feeling a little jaded this morning. Today is one of those special days that starts with an inbox full of viruses. One in particular, received six times, carries the message, "Attention: Immediate Action Required for MSN and Windows Messenger Users" and carries a little payload called 'W32Minmail.' - Just the thing to start my day. To add to my fun, there is even a message from the administrator of my own domain – which happens to be me - telling me that my email address is about to expire and that I should “Read the attached message”. No thank you, because this one happens to be loaded too, according to Norton anti-virus, which has safely quarantined it.



Now, I wasn't born yesterday but some people working in government IT may have been. This month, Brazilian hackers 'visited' a number of local government websites and vandalised them with anti-government messages and digital graffiti. Ironically, the websites in question had failed to apply a 'critical' web server patch for Microsoft's Internet Information Server - I won't say which - that has been available for some time. The result, acute embarrassment at county hall and local eGovernment information delivered with rich Portuguese adjectives.

It’s a mess. A week ago, Blaster wreaked havoc and cost millions in terms of lost productivity and when you aren’t fighting the forest fires, and then you have to watch out for the booby traps that litter your inbox every working day. Much of the time however, the damage is self inflicted, in the sense that basic security in the shape of patches or anti-virus software is freely available but the evidence clearly demonstrates that a significant percentage of the end-user population simply don’t bother. As a message, advocating safe computing is about as effective as encouraging safe sex, because people continue to ignore the dangers of today’s computing environment, whether it’s teenage chatrooms, web server exploits or viruses.



All of us need to accept that we are living in a war zone and not the cosy new digital world we see advertised on television and seen on the shelves at PC World. People buy PCs like they buy Playstations and televisions. It’s a commodity, which in this case, offers a window to a world of previously undreamed of possibilities and information resources. But when people encounter Internet crime, which is a regular fact of life on today’s information superhighway, it still seems to come as a surprise, rather like a well-know celebrity keeping a £1 million worth of jewellery in her home and expecting it to be safe in the Britain of the 21st century. The reality of the Internet is closer to the world of Tony Martin and perhaps a PC sale should start with the firewall and the anti-virus software and end with the processor, instead of the opposite.

When SQL- Slammer appeared earlier in the year, I predicted that it wouldn’t be the first ‘firestorm’ of 2003. Two really big incidents a year now seem to be the norm and perhaps we won’t see a repeat performance until the New Year. Blaster however could have been much worse than it was and like SQL-Slammer, it should have been a lesson to everyone, from IT Director to silver surfer. Unfortunately, it won’t be. I can predict, once again and with some confidence, that within ten months there will be another nasty surprise, which once again will have BBC Breakfast worrying about the end of the world – over to you Dermot - . The Internet will shudder for a while and millions of pounds will be lost as production servers are taken down and patched once again with code that has been sitting around for some time with ‘Critical Windows Update’ written on the front in large red letters.

It’s a mystery to me but I’m sure it all works out in the end.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…
A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.



I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…