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.