Truth About Computer Security Hysteria
Clinton's Y2K czar came up with a brilliant strategyRob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Wednesday, 15 December 1999
PRESIDENT CLINTON'S "Y2K czar" devised a brilliant strategy to play both sides of the Y2K virus hysteria. An absolutely brilliant strategy!
According to security vendors and the U.S. government, a more deadly foe sprang up once we got our Y2K problems under control. Viruses & hackers will cause far more computing damage on New Year's Day than Y2K itself. So say the fearmongers.
I skimmed this subject almost one year ago. I explained how security vendors seemed jealous of all the Y2K hysteria. When the fear died down a little, they whipped up a media circus about "Y2K viruses" and Y2K hacking. Government officials with political agendas simply played along.
Mark my words: this media circus will turn into a media fiasco like so many others before it. And I think today's fearmongers only just now realize it. Symantec & McAfee apparently want to shed quotations made by Vincent Weafer & Sal Viveros, respectively. FBI NIPC director Michael Vatis admits he can produce no hard evidence to support his own rampant fearmongering. I could go on...
Yet how can you backpedal after so much fearmongering? I really didn't expect anything brilliant here. I figured every Chicken Little would just look back on it and say "better safe than sorry."
Then — out of nowhere — president Clinton's "Y2K czar" promoted a brilliant strategy. He begged über-hackers around the world for mercy! From a Reuters story:
President Clinton's top aide on Y2K matters has urged computer hackers to exercise self-restraint until after year 2000 technology fears largely have passed. In an unusual plea for mercy, John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said that some people regard piercing computer network security to be a "great public service" because it calls attention to security cracks. "Hopefully those people will recognize we're going to have enough things going on that (New Year's) weekend that this will not be a particularly good weekend to demonstrate the need for more information security," he said on Monday.
Koskinen can play both sides of the fence! On the one hand, if the computing world dies, then fearmongers were right all along. On the other hand, if nothing big happens, we can thank the U.S. government for begging hackers for a reprieve.
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant! It won't surprise me if the computer security industry rallies behind Koskinen. "Can't we all just get along?" I honestly wish I'd thought of it first.
Mind you, this strategy breaks down when scrutinized. I remember an old Sesame Street skit starring Bert & Ernie. We find Ernie with a banana in his ear. "Hey Bert!" Bert asks the obvious question. "It's to keep away the tigers," Ernie replies. "But there aren't any tigers on Sesame Street," Bert tells him. "See? It's working!"
The president's Y2K czar merely follows in Ernie's footsteps. So. Why not beg tigers for mercy, too, on New Year's Day? If no tigers attack, well, great! Koskinen can take the banana out of his ear and rejoice.
One way or another, it all comes to a head in about two weeks.
History suggests the press will look for a scapegoat — preferably one deserving punishment anyway. I predict they'll focus on mi2g. And why not? They make an excellent target: small, bizarre, and deserving. What more could an embarrassed reporter ask for?
Don't let the media off the hook this time, folks. They have a fetish for juicy computer virus