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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Rob Rosenberger

I hope we never find Michelangelo's author

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Monday, 6 March 1995

LET'S SAY YOU want to needlessly hurt computer users. Why not? Little boys pull wings off flies and burn ants under a magnifying glass. You deserve a little fun. And so, in your quest to hurt computer users, you write a destructive virus and set it to trigger every year on your birthday — March 6.

Let's say you release the virus. Hee hee! You can't wait for your birthday. Internet's VIRUS-L group will probably mention dozens of computers damaged by your handiwork when March 6 rolls around.

Then one day you wake up — and the front page of your newspaper screams with headlines about how "five million" computers will die because of your work. Wow! Just think of all the great destruction you've wrought with your handiwork. Why, you're famous!

A FEW WEEKS later you realize your handiwork attained something far greater than fame. It achieved worldwide fame! The name of your virus flows from the lips of tens of millions of computer users all over the planet.

But now you realize — hey, you can't come forward to proclaim yourself as its creator! You can't bask in the glory of worldwide fame! Because if you do come forward, God only knows how much anger you'll face. Some wild-eyed, gun-loving American might even shoot you for writing it.

March 6 comes & goes. Five million computers didn't die, but hey! You still did something cool — your virus set a new record for total number of computers wiped out in one day. (And this despite the worldwide hysteria!) Give yourself a pat on the back.

But there you go again — cursing the fact no one else pats you on the back for a job well done. No one knows you wrote the virus. Doesn't it make you mad?

FOUR YEARS HAVE passed since the worldwide hysteria caused by your handiwork. No one ever discovered your name: no virus researcher ever interviewed you. What a rip-off! The author of the Dark Avenger virus got more interviews than you, and his identity remains largely a secret to this day. Even that Rob Rosenberger idiot got more fame from your virus than you did. What a rip-off.

Sure, you could come forward now to claim your fame — who'd believe you? They'd dismiss you as just another dweeb looking for somebody to stroke his ego.

And there you sit, fuming at all the missed fame. You could have written a book ten times better than Mark Ludwig's. Computer security conferences would have paid your airfare & hotel bill so you could sit on a panel about viruses. Your name would have scrolled by as "Technical Consultant" in the closing credits of The Net. You would have schmoozed with Sandra Bullock, giving her tips on how to act like a real nerd and impressing her with your computer anecdotes.

Man, you could have starred in an American Express commercial! "Hi, do you know me? The media said my virus would destroy five million computers..."

All this... lost... gone forever. All because you didn't come forward when you had the chance. The name of your virus is a household word: little girls in Japan know the name of your virus. But they don't know your name! How can you stand it? How can you live with the all-consuming frustration?

I think about you every night when I go to bed. I remember how much you lost by not coming forward.

I sleep well at night when I think about what you lost. I hope we never find you.

[presumed first edition]