Turn your antivirus strategy inside out

Wednesday, 17 December 2003, 2:25 PM EST

Computer viruses, worms, and hacker Trojan Horses are arriving with more frequency and with ever greater destructive power. Current systems are doing little to stem the tide. Something has to change, and the answer may lie in "fencing in."

In my home state of Montana, the law of the land is "fence out." That means that it is incumbent upon any ranch to keep his neighbors’ livestock out of his fields--he is not responsible for keeping his own livestock in. This mechanism dates from the time when most of Montana was open range land, and the occasional farms were responsible for keeping that free-range livestock out of their fields. In this day, when all the land has been claimed and cut up into contiguous ranches, this "fence out" rule seems a little anachronistic, but it remains the rule.

Currently, malicious software, collectively known as "malware," is countered by "fence out" methodology. Every individual system attempts to fence malware out, leaving it free to run around the network looking for just one system that fails to fence it out so it can propagate. This fencing out strategy is failing--recent reports claim that a third of all spam is being sent from home PCs unwittingly being used as relays, and now viruses and Trojan Horses are starting to use the same techniques.

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