Amy Alexander on Sun, 14 May 2000 07:50:01 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Viruses on the Internet: Monoculture breeds parasites

On Fri, 12 May 2000, Menso Heus wrote:

> could have been written for Unix or Linux as well, just put the code in a
> shell script.
that's true, but then again, on unix/linux it's usually tougher to
an executable program as a text or other benign file, which was part of
the trick "ILOVEYOU" used. the user has to consciously set the execute
permissions on the file and run it as executable (unless there are 
mailers that do this automatically based on the #!/bin/sh at the
top of the script; i hope not - i don't know of any)... even in the GUI
window managers, you still see file types and have to set permissions.
> The *PROBLEM* is the *USER* Like always, it's the end-luser that goes 'hey
> someone loves me clickclickclick' whithout paying attention to what it isz
> they are actually opening.

true enough, except in mailers that open attachments without asking
people... dangerous with executables, word files, etc. i'm not an expert
on things microsoft, but it does seem they put hooks into the OS in some
strange places - like Word documents. so an attachment doesn't really need
to be executable to harbor a virus nowadays. or maybe we just need to
rethink our definition of "executable" to include things like Word files.

> The reason that this wouldn't work with Unix people is not because the os
> doesn't allow it, but because Unix people have more clues about computing
> in general... 

true, both on the surface and on a more fundamental level. microsoft has
written some very automated software, in the hopes of making things easy
for people, whether computer literate or not. attachments that open
themselves, hooks into the OS from word processor docs, etc... and hey, it
works -lots of people can get things done with computers fairly easily;
they don't have to spend time learning things like how to make their files
executable and so on. but there's drawbacks to that, and one of them is
the easy spread of viruses. it's a difficult balancing act. and much of
the trouble is still the fair amount of geekishness you need to develop to
work in linux/unix. (not to mention the absence of some of the more
fundamental desktop apps.) fortunately, this has been getting better
lately; though there is still much to be desired. (i swapped in a new
graphics card in a linux mandrake box the other day - was delighted to
have an autoconfigurator come up and offer to configure for the card for
me, thus saving me from XFree86-config-torture - but then, the
autoconfigurator went on to try to disable the driver for the on-board
sound for no apparent reason.)

anyway, i think systems like linux need to continue to improve in
usability; much of the open source movement has concentrated on the
geek-user up until recently, so hopefully things will shift to usability
for everyone... but also, when that happens, there needs to be quite a bit
of thought put in to doing it without screwing things up, so that users
aren't opening themselves up to viruses, etc.

btw, i realize i'm ignoring issues of "windows users often running with
full privileges on the registry" vs. "running as an unpriveleged
unix/linux user"...  there are a whole slew of issues one could discuss
with respect to 98/NT/2000 user and admin accounts vs. unix and how much
damage you can really do to a system, but, in the case of the
"ILOVEYOU" virus, i don't believe it would make a difference.


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