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Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Rob Rosenberger

Rob files a mea culpa

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Tuesday, 30 March 1999

MEA CULPA: IN my original working theory for Melissa, I thought we should search for a spammer rather than a virus author. "You'll probably find a spam booster rocket floating around somewhere in cyberspace," I haughtily predicted. An infected file with links to porn sites struck me as the latest unethical spam tactic. I fully expected to find a launchpad made from dozens of promiscuous email servers.

Research by Richard M. Smith (Phar Lap) indicates the porn sites mentioned in the original Melissa file belong to unrelated people. Also, Smith used a privacy flaw in Word documents to track down the possible virus author. The trail apparently doesn't point to a spammer, so I need to discard my hypothesis.

Now, I'd normally just discard it and get on with my efforts — but this time I went too far. I confidently told a Detroit radio station and a St. Louis news crew we would find a spammer behind this virus. Ouch! A skeptic must hold himself to the standards he expects others to follow. I whine about people who label their assumptions as facts, you know.

Some of my critics may use this mea culpa to berate the value of my opinions. Too bad for me: that's the price I'll pay for falling off my high horse.