Threat Management

Laughing at adversity in security

Finding hilarity in computer security is a little like the joy of discovering a week-old, fermenting shrimp that fell between the couch cushions. Certainly it is appalling, but you can laugh at the absurdity of it. 

In print,it comes off a bit like sour grapes. And for me, it is an odd thing to laugh at a thing that I've spent more than a decade trying to change. Maybe this thing needs a laugh-track. 

Anyway, here are the top five things which make my nose wrinkle like smelling well-aged crustacean:

  1. Suddenly it's so wrong that social networking sites are making money off social intimacy.
  2. Even technology savvy people have their head firmly jammed in the sand.
  3. No really, I'm not a conspiracy nut; the malware industry actually is run by mobsters.
  4. Any rule for when you can consider yourself “safe” online has been obliterated.
  5. Just because those rules have been broken doesn't justify freaking out over it.

Have you noticed that people are suddenly going apoplectic because Facebook has been linking itself with outside sites? Hello, where was this outrage when everybody was doing Facebook quizzes?  And the sites which visually aggregate data from social networking sites…uh, last time I checked this information has been available in one easy little Google search for a dog's age.  es, it is unsettling, and thanks for finally checking in on the state of our withering privacy. 

This second point was really driven home at a recent security conference. A speaker was complaining about scare mongering by a vendor whose product noted there are 30,000 new viruses discovered daily. All of us who'd been in the trenches at research labs agreed: That figure is so 2008. Anti-malware vendors are now adding detection for around 200,000 threats daily. And if detection rates don't quite hit 100 do the math. This is why everybody and their dog are offering security suites now, not just stand-alone AV.

There is no way not to sound like a jabbering lunatic when discussing the current state of malware with the general public. Truth is far stranger than fiction these days. Malware is safer and cheaper for the mob to be involved with than drugs, who can blame them for cranking out new creations like some kind of cyberspace Octomom. And yet this doesn't get discussed on the evening news, maybe because it sounds so over-the-top nuts.

There was a time when we said to “only open emails attachments that are from people you know”. And then email worms made attachments unsafe, even from trusted sources. We used to say “stay on trusted websites” and then malvertisements brought infections to even the most innocuous websites. There are so many security wonks crying wolf on every new security issue, can you blame people for sticking their fingers in their ears and humming to tune us out? 

The truth is this: Security products have made great strides too. If you update all your pertinent software and employ layered security, it really can be reasonably safe. It is less hip than cultivating a thick veneer of indifference, but I'd say it's worth it. 

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