War on terrorism on line

How big a problem is connecting to an unpatched computer? Big. Last August, the network worm MSBlast ripped through home computers and corporate workstations alike. Large companies should have been immune; after all, they have gateway firewalls and gateway antivirus protection to protect the entire company. But MSBlast was especially pernicious. It didn't spread via e-mail; instead, the worm passed through open ports on vulnerable Windows 2000 and XP computers. Many companies and universities protected their perimeters well against MSBlast, but they didn't patch every desktop on the inside. All it took was one infected PC connecting from the outside to that unprotected internal machine to cause a meltdown.

Back in the 1980s, the way to avoid computer viruses was to ask, "Whose floppy disk am I loading onto my computer?" Two decades later, we should be asking instead, "Whose desktop, laptop, or PDA is connecting to mine? Should I trust that individual to have installed proper patches and antivirus protection?" In most cases, the answer is no.

Most of our current computer security strategy is based on after-the-fact mitigation, and we don't focus enough resources on prevention. Sure, good networks are built on trust, but no matter how many firewalls and antivirus scanners you install, it takes only one Typhoid Mary computer to infect a whole network, reviews-zdnet.com

According to techrepublic.com after a few relatively quiet months on the virus/worm front, administrators have been facing, over the past several weeks, a nearly continuous barrage of serious attacks from new and modified versions of earlier viruses and worms.

Like the war on terrorism, there's a secret battle going on right now that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. And it is happening... right on your computer. Recent computer viral outbreaks of the MyDoom, Netsky, and Bagle email bugs show that malicious online software, or "malware," is still a growing security threat.

The reasons for the rapid rise of rascally code are many. But concerned experts point to a particularly disturbing trend. Malware creators are cranking out more and increasingly sophisticated bugs in order to prove who's the top dog when it comes to dirty online tricks.

The proof, they say, are in the vulgar taunts aimed at the software industry and other virus writers hidden within their various creations.

But more than just verbal abuse, antivirus analyzers note that each successive bug and variant is becoming increasingly sophisticated in finding and exploiting vulnerable computers in order to spread.

But despite recent outbreaks, many average online users - especially those using fast, always-on, broadband connections - remain disturbingly unaware and unprotected from the threat.

According to a recent online industry survey, only a third of broadband users - the fastest growing population of online users - have the proper online security tools in place and updated to protect against the latest threats.

So, many ISPs are looking at ways to boost their security. Most provide - and in some cases, automatically install - security software on subscriber's computers when they join the network. But ISPs, such as Verizon DSL, Comcast Cable, and SBC/Yahoo! are taking a more proactive approach by monitoring their networks for sudden spikes in online traffic in an effort to nip any attack in the bud.

"There are definitely things we can look at, such as more aggressive monitoring tools, and attack signatures," says Michael Jordan, a security analyst with Verizon DSL. "But there's not a lot out there that works at a scale of 10 [million] to 20 million customers. There's some defense, but it's really back on the consumer. There's only so much an ISP can do without running afoul of a user's privacy," report techtv.com

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