Skip to main content
The Road Ahead

It wasn’t the gifts, the weather or even the declining standard of BBC programming that made Christmas memorable this year, it was the number of virus attacks that were aimed at my email address over the holiday weekend.

We’ve all come to expect these as an unfortunate fact of life that like Spam, are either deleted by the Outlook or ISP filters or find their way, like virtual suicide bombers, through gaps in one’s defences and then try and wreak havoc, as part of some corrupted version of the message of goodwill to all men.

To be honest though, there are now so many viruses in circulation and so many tens of thousands of personal computers connected to “bot nets” around the world that attacks aren’t personal, they are indifferent and automated, with millions or email addresses harvested from websites and address books being hammered by what resembles a Chinese menu of virus and worm types, 24*7*365 and with no sympathy for Christmas or EID or any other calendar celebration.

We can take steps to educate the population of the UK over good security practise and at a domestic level; it may marginally reduce the damage to confidence and data together with the element of risk being attached to any Internet connection. There is however, very little we can do to influence behaviour elsewhere and at the level required to have any real impact on the problem that others like me may be experiencing on a daily basis.

As an example, let’s take the prestigious Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva with the URL; . I’ve seen this address before over the course of 2004 and it’s stuck in my memory because it’s a Swiss domain and an observably regular source of virus attacks on my own email address. I doubt that the Institute is aware of this or if they are, whether they are able to stop it, as perhaps their domain is being spoofed or maybe, one of their student PCs is infected. The end result however is that they and thousands of other addresses, appear to be a source of inconvenience, if not a serious threat to the rest of us, over geographical distances and with very little or nothing we can do about it.

In my last column, I mentioned a large international hotel chain with a similar problem. The IT Director tells me that after checking, they can’t find a problem or an open SMTP relay but just after he disappeared for Christmas, leaving his out of “office agent” offering seasonal greetings in German, an email I sent with a record of virus attacks was returned, by his Server, complete with a company address book of executive email addresses. This is crazy and makes a complete mockery of sensible information security practise but in many countries within Europe, this represents the norm and not the exception.

For many of us, it appears that the only available option is to change our email addresses almost as often as we change our socks. Having an address such a Simon.Moores is no longer viable in the present climate unless one expects to have ten times more junk and viruses in one’s inbox than legitimate email. In fact, on a GPRS phone, it’s an expensive liability, when calls are charged by the kilobyte.

But if I change my email address to $ it doesn’t mean that my domain, like others, won’t remain a target for tens if not hundreds and thousands of automated attacks.

The hard truth is that 2004 marks the year that viruses developed sufficient critical mass on the Internet to develop an independent existence of their own, replicating across the Internet beyond the control of our attempts to contain them.

Ten years ago, when the Internet started to make its presence felt in the public domain, it came with an atmosphere of optimism and opportunity, today it’s an environment wrapped in risk and suspicion with no end to its problems in sight. We’ve come too far, we can’t turn back and we don’t quite know where the road ahead will take us.


abigail said…
I love your information on internet connections! I bookmarked your blog and will be back soon. If you want, check out my blog on internet connections secrets, please come by!

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…