The News – 02/25/01
Anyone Can Write a Virus
Well here’s disheartening news: Virus creation kits are so
popular and easy to use that you, too, could write a virus like the recent Anna
Kournikova or ILOVEYOU viruses. According to Wired News, “If you can
install a program on a computer, you can also -- using one of these kits --
write and release a virus just like the authors of Cartman, Poppy and Kenny
This problem is brought to you by the friendly folks at
Microsoft, as I have ranted before. If it weren’t
for the huge vulnerabilities opened by Microsoft’s Visual Basic Script
language, which is imbedded into the entire MS Office suite, it would be a
good deal harder to write viruses and worms. However, to be fair, this
doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t have these do-it-yourself kits floating
around out there.
Short aside: I
actually hate to pick on Microsoft as they face the horror of being broken
up. The company has been the major player that has fostered the computer
revolution. But it just doesn’t pay to disregard anti-trust rules, as they
are going to find out when the gov breaks them up, sooner or later.
On a positive note for Microsoft,
the breakup will not seriously affect the company’s monopoly position in
its markets, and might even turn out to be a good thing for shareholders.
But I digress.
The thing for businesses to remember is that cybervandalism
will continue. You need to educate your associates to never open an
attachment unless you are sure of its contents. Plus, disable Visual Basic
Scripting support in MS Outlook if you have it, and remove Windows
Scripting Host from your computer using Add/Remove Programs. If you see
lots of unexpected emails coming from colleagues all in a bunch, call your system
administrator before opening any of them. There are various other steps you
can take, which are explained on the CERT
site or any of the major antivirus makers’ sites (McAfee, Symantec).
And while we’re on the subject of security, you need a
personal firewall as well. Unless your entire network is protected by a
firewall that features stateful inspection, each PC should have a firewall.
You should especially use one when dialing up while on the road. (Recently,
when I was speaking in Palm Springs, I was getting one to two intrusion
attempts a minute while dialed up to Earthlink.)
There are a number of good personal firewalls, but the cream
of the crop currently is ZoneAlarm,
and the good news is, it’s free. Unlike many other firewalls, ZoneAlarm not
only keeps the bad guys out, it also prevents programs on your PC from
contacting the Internet and doing bad stuff. Programs called Trojan horses
can do this, along with various viruses and worms like Anna Kournikova. This
makes it a bit of a pain in the butt until you’ve got it fully configured.
After you install it, every program you use that contacts the Internet causes
an alert to pop up to ask if it’s OK. You can tell ZoneAlarm to remember
your answer, though, and after a while, you’ll see alarms only when
something unusual happens. However, configuring file and printer sharing in
Windows can be a bit tricky, so be prepared to take some time doing that.
But above all, let’s be careful out there!
Think Globally, Act Locally
A good marketer segments
the market. Even though the Internet is worldwide, it often helps to know
who’s buying the most online. Researcher IDC recently released an analysis
of US states that includes data on which state’s residents buy the most on
It’s no surprise to see the
largest states dominating the mix. According to IDC:
combined, California and Texas represented 22% of the country's consumer Internet
spending. Not only do these two states have large populations and healthy
average household incomes, but they also are in the group of states that
spent more than 0.8% of their total household income on purchases via the
Internet. The average for the United States was 0.69%.
But 13 other states spend
more per capita, over 0.8 percent. And the leaders, with more than 1.25
percent, were a trio of states that might surprise you: New Mexico, New
Hampshire, and Rhode Island. So if what you sell appeals to folks in those
states, a strong Internet marketing program is in order.
Return to Mike’s Take