The Norman Transcript

Commerce

June 14, 2008

Stop helping the bad guys, Part 3

Ah, the early days of home computing. Back in the ’80s, and for much of the ’90s, few computer users gave much thought to Internet security. We weren’t worried about electronic vandals or criminals damaging machines, and the only medicine for viruses came from the family doctor.

The world we now live in is dramatically different, and Internet security has become the responsibility of the end user. What used to be like a walk in the park is now more like a midnight stroll down a dark alley. In the same way that the police won’t check to make sure your car is locked, no one but you can make sure that the bad guys are locked out of your computer.

Upwards of 200 new computer viruses, worms and trojans are released “into the wild” every day. Eighty-eight percent of computers have some kind of spyware installed, with an average of 25 spyware instances per machine. Despite the warnings from people like me, far too many computer users still do not take Internet security as seriously as they should. Yesterday, I removed 219 viruses from a client’s computer. Antivirus software was installed, but had expired long ago, and was not actively running. He had seen and ignored the warning signs for quite a while; as a result, the viruses had severely damaged his Windows operating system. This was a computer that was critical to his business. It took me a long time to make things right; it cost him a lot of money.

Internet fraud schemes also have experienced amazing growth, using spam “phishing” and “pharming” e-mails, fake Web sites, and the new darling of the bad guys, instant messaging. More than 90 percent of all e-mail traffic is spam, with millions of dangerous e-mails sent every day. Instant messaging networks have seen huge increases in fake instant messages, or “spim” attacks. Phishers steal millions of dollars every day. One survey shows that 70 percent of Internet users have visited a bogus Web site, with private data being given up by 15 percent.

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