I’m a veteran of the Internet security wars but admittedly have as many questions and fears as anyone about what to take seriously and how to fight back.
Like many computer users, I’ve gotten myself into trouble with malware, viruses and worms emanating from some faraway land – or down the block. Who really knows?
But unlike many others, I spent hundreds of hours in my former agency days in a strategic marketing and PR role for Symantec.
In 2003 and 2004, we practiced a measured response to the Internet threats. While other companies marched out headlines of worldwide takedowns and impending doom, Symantec chose in most cases to stay away from hype.
Which brings us to today when, if you believe the headlines, my Macs are under attack, malicious code is coming to my smartphones, and my Yahoo and Hotmail accounts are in the crosshairs.
So whom do we believe?
Michael Horowitz of Computerworld says the recent news stories are overblown.
“As is typical of the mainstream media covering computer topics, most of those interviewed were self-serving” Horowitz wrote. “People and companies that make a living defending computer systems, saying how bad things are and thus implying how necessary their services are. We've seen this before.”
According to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, in 2010, attackers unleashed more than 286 million distinct malicious programs, an average of more than nine new threats every second of every day. These threats impact multiple areas of the IT infrastructure with a 93 percent increase in Web-based attacks, 42 percent more mobile vulnerabilities, and 6,253 new vulnerabilities including 14 zero-day vulnerabilities – those that strike so suddenly that companies have no time to play defense.
"It's very hard to completely vet everything," Symantec Corp. Chief Executive Officer Enrique Salem told Bloomberg this week
http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/jun2011/tc2011062_947631.htm. "It's early in mobile security."
Glenn Fleishman, one of the most respected Apple watchers, weighed in on the Mac Defender malware attack. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2015198201_ptmacc04.html
“Mac users have the wrong idea about malware. I know I did. We tend to think of viruses as software that installs itself on our computers when we visit malicious Web pages in the Internet's back alleys, like porn and pirated software sites. Or of worms that infect remotely by scanning for vulnerable systems. And we think only Windows systems are affected.
“Some of that is true. But we're most vulnerable in our minds, not our operating systems.
“The Mac Defender malware should put to rest those assumptions and be a wake-up call for a change in attitude. It was for Apple.”
Whether consumers will ever heed warnings is very much in doubt. Even in the aftermath of stories on computer viruses and worms hit the covers of Newsweek and Time, millions ignored the headlines or were oblivious.
Experience tells me that it often takes a personal experience -- a debilitating attack -- to convince a computer user to take preventative action intended to prevent a next time.
(Article first published as We're Under Internet Security Attack - Or We Aren't on Technorati.)