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 InHouse Series on Information Security

By Claudia Lynch, Benchmarks Online Editor

InHouse, UNT's faculty/staff online newsletter, has been running a series of articles on information security recently. They don't have any new articles so far this month, but you can see all that have been run so far here.

Let's hope the virus writers out there aren't working overtime this month, because this is the 25th anniversary of the computer virus. Really. And, as Richard Ford and Eugene H. Spafford write in their article "Happy Birthday, Dear Viruses":

There is one basic fact in security: The more functionality, the more opportunities a developer has to make a mistake. The simple truth is that modern computers are anything but simple--their increasing complexity is driven by consumers' thirst for functionality. Furthermore, computers are almost ubiquitous: For most people, the cell phones in their pockets are as much computers as are their laptops. Virulent cell-to-cell malware is not far off; researchers have already seen some limited "proof of concept" efforts. Personal digital assistants, music players, "smart" appliances, and more are all increasingly making use of available connectivity. Consumers and producers alike need to understand that more functionality means more risk. Unfortunately, no change is likely in the near term, and vendors will continue to add poorly thought-out code to their products.

Despite the best efforts of researchers, malware is not going to vanish any time soon. Computers are extremely difficult to secure, and humans are often the weakest link. For example, in one hoax users were encouraged to delete a particular file from their computers. Many users did exactly that and carefully followed the instructions to forward the warning message to all their friends. The file they deleted was critical to the system; the "virus" was executing in their minds. There is no obvious "fix" for human nature--that has not changed in many hundreds of years. Because of this, it seems likely that in another 25 years time, we will all be lifting our glasses to (or because of) malware once again.

See "A History of Viruses" for more fun facts.

 


Originally published, July 2007 -- Please note that information published in Benchmarks Online is likely to degrade over time, especially links to various Websites. To make sure you have the most current information on a specific topic, it may be best to search the UNT Website - http://www.unt.edu . You can also search Benchmarks Online - http://www.unt.edu/benchmarks/archives/back.htm as well as consult the UNT Helpdesk - http://www.unt.edu/helpdesk/ Questions and comments should be directed to
benchmarks@unt.edu

 

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