Be it viruses or worms, John Simpson has contracted something.
As I write this, the 'Slammer' worm is wreaking havoc across many of our Asian neighbours and shutting down more American ATMs than an EM pulse. This worm seems to have a penchant for Microsoft code, which has made it particularly nasty for a large percentage of the world's servers -- and in turn the Internet. Blame is flying thick and fast: Microsoft is saying that network administrators are at fault for failing to install patches; admins are saying Microsoft's SQL Server keeps springing security holes faster than the Titanic in an ice floe.
Frankly, I really don't care who's at fault. I just want my access back.
I first noticed the problem watching The Hulk Superbowl trailer. The preview streamed like some big blob of green jelly; the big guy looking like he was doing Tai-chi on ice. Eric Bana's new stint as a raging killing machine (typecast? Maybe. . .) made me wish I'd switched off the fridge and packed a sandwich. Sooooo sloooow. . . same thing with the new Daredevil trailer -- still frames about as exciting as George Bush in tights. They say our generation is the least patient ever -- and it's no wonder, when our entertainment stutters like Elmer Fudd reading Latin.
Slow access aside, there's a few other things that bug me about these virus attacks. First, the way the media refers to the nasty little programs. 'Worm' just doesn't seem to cut it anymore. Symantec tells us that a worm is: 'A program that makes copies of itself -- for example, from one disk drive to another, or by copying itself using email or another transport mechanism'. A better definition is more like: 'A huge pain in the arse that blocks all access' -- which brings a bunch of descriptives to mind ('suppository', 'wedgie' or 'George Michael' all being good ones).
Then there's the way they propagate. For the past few months I've been getting executable files from someone called 'Big Boss', promising something really exciting. Well, I may have trouble opening a child-proof cap, but I'm not totally stupid. 'Big Boss' doesn't sound even remotely friendly -- the only Big Boss I know is Ben (and I never open anything from him).
They may as well send 'This file contains a virus, so open it now you idiot'. Wouldn't it make more sense to say something like 'Your mother's Christmas wish list' or 'A photo of you in a service station toilet' (I'd be sure to open that one). Some hackers just aren't very smart. . .
Mind you, I got an interesting message recently from someone called 'SysAdmin', asking me to install a security patch. I did have to think twice before deleting that one. I'm still not sure it wasn't legitimate, but figured the bright pink background was a reasonable giveaway.
Which makes me wonder: how long before someone manages to redirect downloads from legitimate sources, like Windows Update? Imagine being told you have five new patches to install, then you unknowingly download the latest Wedgie (sounds better, doesn't it?). I imagine I'm like most other people, blindly installing updates and patches from Microsoft and Sierra in the hope that my PC will run faster, safer and steadier (hell, tell me my seek times would be better if I faced my computer north and I'd do it). In other words, I'd be one of the first to fall for a fake WU patch.
Now that I've given some angry young nerd a good idea, I should really mention the other side of the coin. Some argue that computer viruses and hacks are good for the industry.
Just like rockets from World War 1, or the Playboy centrefold from WW2, great tragedies often spawn significant improvements. Even Archimedes, the guy who scolded himself in the bath and ran down the street yelling 'Eureka!', ended up discovering displacement theory.
Perhaps viruses are the proverbial bath water that boils our most private parts -- in the end leading us to greater technological advances.
And one thing we know for sure -– if aliens ever come to earth and start pounding our capital cities, the guy who can write a mean virus program will be the ultimate saviour.
Assuming the aliens run Outlook Express and are dumb enough to open attachments.
Ooops, gotta go -– someone called 'Hairy Bertha' has just sent me an executable file of her lesbian frolic in the British Parliament. . .