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"Please, please, please" came the blandishments of the P.R. men. "If you want to talk to someone about Bugbear, pleeze give me a call," twittered one. Dear Sir, would you notice my client's rubbish for a computer virus story angle?

But even when ignored, the work of the flacks remains astonishingly efficient. I often received their humorless memos well before the presentation of even the fastest moving electronic disease.

With Bugbear it was no different and the virus was no match for these powers of mobilization. It arrived late, well behind advertisements citing it, dragging along aft of one SirCam but in front of twelve pieces of mail from the tomfool Dr. Greg Odili of Nigeria.

Like Klez, Bugbear is another pox on the wired lower class, racing past the former in prevalence and into the mail of the Rufus-the-Stuntbums of the net. Since it affects only those whose computing due diligence is on the level of someone who chugs two six-packs before riding down a stairway in a shopping cart, the virus was no more going to inspire a mass media freak-out than the bumblers at UUNet alleged to have screwed up a half-continent of DNS tables for a day. Programming anti-anti-virus code is more accurately thought of as an old parlor trick, filler in the library of legendary virus zines. And sure enough, this was the case -- with only new media regulars tepidly noticing its arrival.

This was unfortunate, for only a good old-school TV and front-page Loveletter/Code Red upset, the kind that puts security talking heads in a twist, shakes the foundations enough to grab the attention of those set upon by Bugbears.

When propelled by an avalanche of media-fueled fear, the inert indigent of the net slowly update their lapsed anti-virus software. Absent this stimulus, the Klezzes and Bugbears of the living-out-of-an-electronic-cardboard-box peer group persist.

So while few of the traditionally excitable security gurus lost much sleep over multitudes of Bugbears, a wormy pseudo-panic -- even a half-assed one, as obnoxious as it would be -- could serve a small purpose.

In the case of Bugbear the cyberterrorists were asleep at the switch, too. Whoever wrote the thing wasted their time witlessly programming a lengthy table of anti-virus programs into it.

This was alleged to give it an anti-anti-virus capability. I'll get to why this was idiotic in a minute.

For CNN online, some old poop from an anti-virus vendor opined to a born yesterday reporter that such an anti-anti-virus measure required "complicated software writing." Readers were told this was remarkable, "the kind of feature that [could not] be easily added to malicious code."

Cheap Gimmicks

Actually though, programming anti-anti-virus code is more accurately thought of as an old parlor trick, filler in the library of legendary virus zines and much discussed in the anti-virus trades. Across the blowing sands of time, anti-virus programs have been clumsily poked and prodded, dismembered in pieces and globally, unloaded with faked operator calls, deinstalled, made to misfire, misled into unproductive looping or used as a trigger to bushwhack their owners.

Such tasks were about as complicated as figuring out how to electrocute a hotdog using two forks, some copper wire and a light socket. And in some cases even much less so. Boot from your rescue disk, the geezers of anti-virus used to say with a yawn. That'll cure it. What, you don't have one? So sad, fifty dollars please.

I recall the case of the antique retired virus-writer Priest and his Jackal virus. The Jackal was written quite specifically to punish the hard disk of anyone who used one particular long extinct virus-cleaning program against it. Peculiarly, it was also picky as to which version of the software it attacked.

It sounded clever until you realized that absolutely no one used what was then an obscure anti-virus utility. The feat of programming eloquence unnoticed, it became necessary for the virus-writer to mount a p.r. campaign in the underground to cultivate the plaudits of colleagues.

Indeed, virus-laden books and pamphlets sit upon my shelves with lonely chapters devoted to theorizing upon and delivering anti-anti-virus code.

In Bugbear, all of this is useless work -- the fruit of a slipshod mind, one perhaps sickened by a fetish for computer gaming or women's shoes.

What is the need of such things when the people infected are already incapable of properly using a-v software? Why bother when none would notice the passing of it?

© 2002 SecurityFocus.com, all rights reserved.

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