To Catch A Virus
by Fernando de la Cuadra - International Technical Editor - Panda Software - Wednesday, 1 September 2004.
Alfred Hitchcock, that great magician of the big screen, often said that to maintain suspense, the audience needed to know more about the situation than the characters in the film. Therefore, while Ingrid Bergman or Cary Grant walked down a hall or through city streets without a care in the world, the spectator noticed a suspicious shadow, or flock of birds in a tree.

Something similar is happening to me after the attacks the Internet has suffered since the beginning of the year. Is there another attack in the pipeline? Will the Internet totally collapse? Graphs showing Internet activity have nothing significant to report. The Panda Technical Support network has not reported any increase in calls. All seems to be calm and peaceful.

Nonetheless, I feel like Grace Kelly in “Dial M For Murder”: I walk into the room without knowing that there is a murderer hidden behind the curtain. I am aware that there are many people who know more than I do: the creators of the next viruses are ready to make hundreds, thousands or millions of computers succumb to their evil plans. The audience is, in this case, computer users. But, unlike those who enjoyed seeing Cary Grant chased by a plane, they suffer the situation as much or more than I do.

All we can do is hope that the neighbour across the way, whom we see infrequently and view with suspicion, does not end up murdering anyone with his viruses. I hope that from our “rear window”, our binoculars will show us the knife-murderer’s activities and we will be able to call the police in time.

But, let’s turn the story around. Let those malevolent Internet birds only give Tippi Hendren a few nips, let no one be forced to hide out in a hotel to escape from a detective with vertigo, like Kim Novak. All that is needed to do this is good company. Internet is like Manderely, with evil housekeepers constantly awaiting an opportunity for torture. If Rebecca had been stronger, the mansion would not have been consumed by flames. Likewise, our computers will not succumb to the destruction of malicious code, if we are suitably prepared.

The help of a good antivirus product makes it unnecessary for us to confront those attempts to destroy our data by ourselves. This is too formidable a task to undertake alone, just like what happened to Cary Grant. Without the help of his favourite nurse, he would never have been able to prove his innocence in “Spellbound”.

Of course, it is important to remember that working with a computer is not a movie. Although we may believe that our computers do not contain particularly valuable information, there may be a hacker somewhere who is more interested in data than in the computer itself. Like in “Torn Curtain”, the hacker can force our connection to defect to the other side, pass secrets to the enemy and do its mischief as if we were the perpetrators.

Movies are wonderful and lots of fun, but if we put ourselves in the characters’ shoes, they are not so amusing. And much less so if we were characters in a Hitchcock film. Some of them end up in prison, dead or persecuted… Others marry Cary Grant or Ingrid Bergman. Which side do you want to be on when surfing the Net? If you want to be on the winning side, you must be prepared for anything, even scaling Mount Rushmore in high-heeled shoes. Install a security suite and you will discover that you are simply climbing up to the top bunk.

THE END?

Spotlight

Operation Pawn Storm: Varied targets and attack vectors, next-level spear-phishing tactics

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