Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The imminent demise of the Internet ...

is being greatly exaggerated, in case you haven't figured it out by yourself.

What's happening is that people are worried because the Conficker worm is due to do "something" on Apr 1st, and no one knows exactly what. Human nature being what it is, some folks are fixating on the worst possible outcome. It'd be pretty bad if you got hit by a meteor too, but no one is building meteor shelters.

There are two main issues to consider here. The first is that Conficker is a pretty well-thought out attack, and it's pretty unlikely that they want to do anything but make money for their efforts. It's not in their, or anyone's interests to try to kill the Internet. They can't make money if they do that. They don't want to chop down the apple tree... they just want to shake it and pick up the apples that fall off.

The second is that this is a government/ corporate/ education problem... not a consumer. The two main vectors for spreading are a vulnerability in a service called RPC, which was patched in October 2008, and poorly protected network shares. The only people that have networks and who also don't patch are government, corporates and education users. Fortunately, they're also the folk that have staff with expertise that they can call on to fight back. The worm probably grabbed millions of users right out of the box in December 2008, but any gov/ corp/ edu user who is still infected after five months, deserves it. On the other hand, JoeThe Plumber almost certainly allows automatic patching each month, and probably doesn't have much of a network, and presents a much smaller target.

Yes, some of Joe's friends will have been nailed by now, by infected USB keys or something, but it's not going to be a massive number of users. The conficker botherders will simply have achieved their goal of building a fairly bullet-proof botherd, and will now "farm" that botnet, while they prepare their next attack. (We will see things like this again, so now would be a good time to upgrade to AVG identity protection ... it'll provide a good safety net for the next attack)

By the way, I think this is a fairly predictable consequence of playing whackamole with botherds. All you do is cull the weak ones from the herd, and encourage the smarter ones to build a stronger botnet.

All in all, I think the date of April 1st is entirely (if accidentally) appropriate.

Keep safe, folks.


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