A Pandemic Disease


The end of the E-world is nigh?

There is a new threat to the planet. It is bigger than the hole in the ozone layer, bigger than AIDS, it crosses borders and continents, it is almost invisible, millions of unaware of its true effects. You could be a 'carrier' and not even know. No matter who, or where, you are it will affect you. Goverments and large corporations conspire to hide its true extent. There is NO current cure. New strains are evolving every day, 24 hours, 365 days a year. Its method of infection is chameleon-like, ever changing, ever more devious, it has the intelligent of a thousand human beings...

Be afraid, be VERY afraid.

What the hell is it?

It's the new communications revolution, the internet and the various forms of attacks on services, both accidental and malicious.

We have all seen the news reports where e-mail accounts have been hacked, where security systems have been reduced to a steaming pile of crashed code and in some cases where entire ISPs or networks have been forced down due to a worm, virus, hacker attack or hardware failure. But are things improving (like the companies tell us), or are things getting worse?

The world of e-commerce, e-mail and e-surfing is a fantastic new toy for most people, something new to play with. A new gadget to find another free mains power socket for. For some it is more than a hobby, it is their livelihood, their job. And for some in remote areas or with a disability it is a vital lifeline, a vital form of communication through which they can have a voice (even if it is a virtual one).

Software Security?

Security is like perpetual motion or a free lunch, you really want to believe they exist, but sadly they don't. We all want our e-mails and e-commerence to be very secure, to be impossible to crack, to be reliable and of course to be totally free to use. Some of us would like to believe Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny are real too.

The words 'security' and 'safe' are very dangerous words, because they attempt to instill a false atmosphere in which consumers (yeah, us users) are conned by the various software companies, ISPs and, the worse culprits of all, the banks and governments. How many times have we see those 'S' words used on their advertisements and web-sites?

Is security a right, or a crime?

The TV screens have been awash with hacker based news stories. From the well known 's-hot mail' to the very recent Yahoo overload problems, we've had very little reassurance that things are going to improve, in fact the future looks bleak. The vast explosion of new people getting on-line looks likely to increase. The chances of crimes like hacking, cyber-terrorism and, the old favourite, virus creation becoming the norm is almost guaranteed.

Yet with all this doom and gloom on the near horizon governments still bury their heads in the sand, or spend their time trying to prevent fairly good encryption software like PGP from being freely distributed. Does this make any f**king sense to anyone? They argue that giving good encryption to everyone would allow terrorists and other criminals to conceal their crimes. Hmmmm... so by denying ordinary users the ability to protect their e-mails and other sensitive data, doesn't this HELP the criminals too?

It's like an insurance company preventing you from locking your own car doors.

Everything can be hacked!

I guess everyone knows this (ask any honest copy-protection developer). Software, hardware and soon biological items too, remember Dolly the cloned sheep? Everything which needs to be mass produced is wide open to pirating because it needs to be easily duplicated. Remember when CD's first came out? Now we have CD-writers and re-writers as standard on most machines. The new DVD players have built in region codes, already hacked. Hardware protection on your latest console? Yeah, by-passed with modified chips.

When was the last time you read some of the above statements on the box of your new 'security' software or ISP sign-up disclaimer? Never? Would you expect to see any e-company admitting the number of times their sites/services had been hacked? Of course not. The crime is concealed from view by both bank and criminal.

The "Infection Collection"

Viruses are another threat to the e-world. Once illegal software was the only way viruses were passed from one to another, now with your Internet browser and all the countless plug-ins allowing on-line upgrades it can only be a matter of time before a truly nasty pandemic virus is created. It may just steal your e-mail password, your credit-card numbers or your hard drive contents (something which 'honest' companies have recently been caught doing), but imagine if your identity was stolen. Your home, your medical insurance and possibly even your cyber job could be taken by someone else.

As networks and systems are linked together the 'convience' factor may increase (like turning off your house lights from the other side of the globe) but so too does the possibility for fraud, vandalism and misery.

Unlock the Gates and smash the Windows

Now that a certain M1cro$oft person is preparing to moving into his house on the hill, will it be home-sweet-home, or Hell-house? Can you imagine if the Gill Bates wonder home was broken into by some hackers out for his blood? They could possibly run up a vast telephone bill, burn all his food, trigger the intruder alarms at 3.00am every day, unlock all the doors, repeatedly play the same song on his stereo system 24 hours a day, delete important e-mails, change TV channels, defrost all the food in his freezers so he gets food poisoning and then crash his interactive control system while he attempts to demonstrate it to his guests.....

Welcome to Win-Homes 3000...

(Ah, who says there's no such thing as "natural justice"? Fingers crossed.)

Happy smurfing...