Truth About Computer Security Hysteria
No, seriously — how do you top Chernobyl?Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Friday, 28 May 1999
A PRESS RELEASE from Central Command & Kaspersky Labs now claims "the Chernobyl virus was the most advertised computer virus this century." Ah, how soon we forget Peter Norton's full-page ad for a free Michelangelo scanner seven years ago. How soon we forget the blatant pitches surrounding Melissa just two months ago.
Hmmm. "This century" seems a little long for computer virus advertising, don't you think?
The press release goes on to describe Emperor, a more insidious clone of Chernobyl (itself just a clone of CIH). This new beast "carries even more deadly capacity" than the virus which supposedly destroyed a million PCs and it "promises to infect more computers."
This kind of hype began more than a decade ago; it represents nothing new in and of itself. It took a looooong time, but the media as a whole can better distinguish virus hype from real news. Their fetish for juicy virus stories waned a little (thanks in no small part to repeated media fiascoes). Antivirus vendors yearn for the "good ol' days" when software reviews grew on trees and editorial ink flowed like tapwater. It now takes more hype to create valuable free publicity.
And there's the rub. Antivirus vendors now need an increasingly powerful simile, metaphor, analogy, or term. Call it a "media advisory" instead of a press release. Name the virus after a dead princess, or rename it if it strikes on the anniversary of a nuclear disaster. Describe the virus as "more deadly than" any current record-holder and "promise" it will infect even more computers. Exploit triskadekaphobia whenever possible.
Identify sovereign territories by name where at least one user surfs the Internet. Scour
Roget's for words related to "devastate" and phrases related to
"life-saving." Let minor typos serve as a
testament to your haste to
So what sets antivirus vendors apart from the rest? They rely on fear to sell an absolutely necessary product. Why does their virus hype grow worse? The media built up a resistance to virus hype. The "boy who cried wolf" problem now grows faster as it grows worse.
This leads to a very important question. "How can you top a hardware-damaging virus which wiped out a million computers on the 13th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident?"
Central Command & Kaspersky Labs seek the answer to this question...