The Turkey that Bites

Wednesday, 22 January 2003, 12:15 PM EST

Reading Bugtraq is a lot like reading Nietzsche: there's a difference between what the words on the page mean literally and what the author expects the enlightened reader to understand.

A hoax pulled off by the security group Gobbles last week illustrates precisely this distinction between exoteric and esoteric meaning: while many readers panicked, most security professionals laughed. When the hoax was revealed, the trade press reported the incident in the same humorless voice as the latest recycled press release.

Gobbles unleashed this firestorm with an advisory claiming that the group had gone to work for the RIAA, and written a multi-platform worm that had infected 95% of computers on peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

Although the message included a real (if minor) exploit against the freely available mpg123 player for Linux and Unix systems, most readers paid more attention to the elaborate RIAA story.

This advisory was computer security as performance art: although the claim is obviously outrageous and beyond credibility, it nevertheless raises a number of serious computer security issues both political and technical.

[ Read more ]




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