Opinion » Cybernaut


Windows under attack



Despite the well-publicized arrests and the tough language being used to scare off computer hackers, Internet security company Symantec says the number of new viruses and worms aimed at Microsoft Windows is up 400 per cent from January to June of 2004, compared to the same period last year.

That translates to approximately 5,000 new viruses and worms verses 1,000 in the first half of 2003.

Part of the reason for this jump is the trend towards copycat viruses, whereby hackers take an existing worm, modify it slightly, and release it back onto the Web. Sometimes these changes are significant enough that virus programs may not recognize subsequent editions, even if they have a patch to protect against the original virus.

Many of the viruses and worms caused massive inconveniences, tying up targetted Web sites by using affected computers to launch co-ordinated "denial of service attacks". Others were more malicious, erasing files, overloading them with messages, and rebooting computers.

Most of the viruses spread through e-mail, although some were propagated through Web sites, instant messaging, corrupted peer-to-peer file downloads, and computer break-ins.

Symantec’s report also discovered an alarming trend – hackers selling the information they gained from their viruses to spamming companies, allowing virus writers to profit from their activities.

Although Windows, with more than 90 per cent of the market share, bears the brunt of virus writers, Symantec said they expect viruses in the future to attack computers using the Linux system and hand-held devices.

The extra security costs for companies are already running into the billions, while studies of the home PC market show that more than 90 per cent of users are running at least one kind antivirus software.

Microsoft keeping it real

Microsoft is preparing to crack down on illegal and pirated versions of its Windows XP operating system through a new software validation program. Billed as Windows Genuine Advantage, this program will be voluntary at first. Anyone visiting Microsoft’s online centre to update or patch their copy of windows will be asked to fill in a form to confirm that their Windows software is bought and paid for.

If you’re running a pirated version, you can still get the patch or upgrades you need, but first you’ll have to click your way through a presentation on the impacts of software piracy and why it’s better for users to have legitimate software – reliability, customer support, access to updates, etc.

Seniors turning to the Web

As anyone who has ever tried to show an older family member how to work a computer and surf the Internet can tell you, it isn’t easy to teach an old dog new tricks. Yet that hasn’t stopped seniors from trying, with a new Ipsos-Reid survey finding that more than 60 per cent of Canadians 55 and older have Internet access, up 12 per cent from only a year ago.

In addition, they’re not as patient a group as you might think – 64 per cent of older users are signed onto high-speed Internet services.

The survey respondents also indicated that they are spending more time online, an average of about 9.6 hours per week compared to 6.8 hours a week a year ago.

Although they’re on it, there are signs that older Canadians don’t quite trust the technology just yet. Only 41 per cent of users 55 and older have used online banking, for example, compared to 55 per cent of younger Canadians. When it comes to purchasing goods and services online, the numbers are 41 per cent and 51 per cent respectively for older and younger users.

Digging ‘Frozen Dirt’

Modern day cell phones are capable of a lot more than most people think, which is why B.C.-based Frozen Dirt Media (www.frozendirt.com) may have hit the jackpot with their new File4ward software.

Based on a new application by Penokio, this new software allows people to access their home or office computers and retrieve files using a cell phone or desktop browser, using a remote hard drive. You can use the service to browse through files, and even forward them by e-mail to another computer.

The beta test is available online at the Frozen Dirt site, and is free to use for the first 90 days.

Pucks still dropping

The current lockout that threatens to shut down the National Hockey League for most, if not all, of the coming season in the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t mean the end of the hockey season.

In Vancouver, Canucks season ticket holders signed up for the next best thing, buying seats for the Vancouver Giants Western Hockey League Franchise.

Others will be following a new four-on-four league modelled after the so-called original six NHL teams, while others will be turning their sights on European leagues, which will get a boost from an influx of NHL players who are keen to keep their skills honed.

You might want to check out the following sites to keep yourself in the loop:

NHL.com (www.nhl.com) – This is the official site of the NHL, with feature articles and the latest news on the status of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Vancouver Giants (www.vancouvergiants.com) – You can bet that tickets will be going fast for the Vancouver Giants WHL team this year. The number of season tickets sold has already doubled.

Original Stars Hockey League (www.oshl.ca) – This four-on-four hockey league, featuring six homages to the original six hockey teams, has more than 80 NHL players on the roster this year, including Vancouver Canucks goalie Dan Cloutier and defenceman Bryan Allen. Most of the games will take place at arenas in Ontario and Quebec, but there’s a good chance they’ll be televised.

European Hockey.Net (www.eurohockey.net) – Keep up with your favourite players in the European leagues through this portal.