Soon al-Qaeda will kill you on the Internet

Virtual box-cutters poised

The Business Software Alliance (BSA), known for kicking doors with dogs and brownshirts to sniff out expired licenses and for extorting vast sums of cash from non-compliant victims even more frightened of a visit from that federal Copyright-911 force also known as the FBI, has taken it upon itself to cobble up a survey which, in the addled minds of the mainstream press, indicates that al-Qaeda has obtained the weapons of mass, digital destruction, and is poised to use them. Western Europe and North America will be razed by a holy onslaught of SYN floods and VB worms and buffer overflows. All Christendom will be laid waste.

Actually, if you bother to read the 'report', you'll find that the BSA drivel does nothing more than record the fears of "IT pros" convinced that this is an eventuality. It offers not one shred of evidence that plans are in the works; not one hint of how this diabolical assault on your life and you daughter's virginity might be accomplished; not one scrap of actual, firsthand research.

Their entire FUD campaign is based solely on the perceptions, imaginations and fears of unnamed "IT pros" -- more than 300 of them, we're assured.

And yet, CNN went so far as to declare a crushing al-Qaeda cyber blood-fest inevitable. The Washington Post went one further, liberally quoting the eternally alarmist Richard Clarke, Ron Dick and John Tritak, and publishing a six-page FUD tome by staff twinkie Barton Gellman, who lapped up every word. (He's a Pulitzer Prize winner, kids.)

"US analysts believe that by disabling or taking command of the floodgates in a dam, for example, or of substations handling 300,000 volts of electric power, an intruder could use virtual tools to destroy real-world lives and property. They surmise, with limited evidence, that al-Qaeda aims to employ those techniques in synchrony with 'kinetic weapons' such as explosives," the pathetically credulous Gellman warns us.

So they're going to crash planes in flight in spite of the pilots on board. They're going to poison food supplies by hacking into the Kellogs mainframe and pumping toxic chemicals into your precious brat's cereal in spite of the workers and inspectors on the production line. They're going to open flood gates and drown your entire town, in spite of the scores of monitors working there.

Remember, "IT pros" are frightened. You should be too.

So what the hell does the BSA have to gain from this exercise in fear mongering? You tell me. Email me and I'll do a roundup of your more interesting letters. My guess is that this is somehow meant to bolster MS' announcement of Palladium, by which means the software colossus would foist an impotent desktop appliance on us in place of our computers. The argument here might be that once you've had your balls surgically removed by Redmond and capitulated to its new, trusted network, the naughty un-Christian buggers of the world will be stopped at the border. We'll be singing soprano to Redmond's tune, but happily so and, most importantly in this age of doubt and fear, safely so. The Chinky-Chinky Chinaman and the Turbaned Chupacabra will be unable to strike us in our beds once Trustworthy Computing takes root. ®

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