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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Virus experts party it up in BO2K mosh pit

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Wednesday, 14 July 1999

BACK ORIFICE 2000 made a splash at last week's DEF CON convention in Las Vegas. The Cult of the Dead Cow unveiled it at a release party which parodied similar events at COMDEX. A source (reliability unknown) said somebody infected one of the BO2K master disks — possibly on purpose — and passed it around at the convention. Newswires mentioned this incident; at least one reporter tagged cDc as the initial vector. (I doubt it.) cDc later slapped "virus free" stickers on master disks.

What do renowned security experts with Las Vegas expense accounts have in common? Answer: they all failed to get an advance copy of BO2K.

I could go on at length about the irony of a hacker blindly accepting software from people he doesn't know. Then again, why would you bother to scan anything at an international hacker convention? If antivirus software couldn't detect BO2K during the conference, then it probably couldn't detect any new über-virus riding along with it.

Major antivirus firms set up mobile labs so they could vivisect BO2K immediately after its release. Comic book superheroes battled the evil nerds, too! An unintendedly funny press release claimed " 'ISS is taking a very proactive role in sharing its X-Force research findings for the greater protection of the entire industry...,' said Christopher Rouland, director of ISS' X-Force security research team."

This use of a Marvel comic book name didn't occur by accident, you know. ISS once published a PG-rated computer security comic book — complete with a buxom dominatrix patterned after Electra,[1] a devil-eyed vigilante patterned after Lou Cypher,[2] a vengeful Amway salesman (aren't they all?), and a clueless cigar-chomping computer security manager who could pass for Bruce Wayne's butler. I swear I don't make this stuff up, folks. One panel actually highlighted the word "kill." Rouland himself may be related to "Moonstar," the X-Force mutant who can make people see their worst fears. An ideal talent in computer security, for sure!

(Okay, I made up the Rouland/Moonstar connection just for fun. Everything else is true, though. Let's return to BO2K.)

Network Associates, Symantec, and ISS each touted themselves as the "first" to offer protection against the new version of this 1yr-old ultra-dangerous non-virus über-threat. WebTrends popped out of the woodwork a day later to label themselves as "among the first" to detect it.

Winston cigarettes: no bull! On an even lighter note, I swiped the graphic at right from the Network Associates website. It reminds me of a recent ad campaign for Winston cigarettes. BO2K = cancer, get it? A seminar on Constitutional rights with lawyer Jennifer Granick produced one of the funniest moments at DEF CON. An audience member asked her, "do you have a boyfriend?" No word on whether she exercised her right to remain silent...