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RSA The perceived mounting cost of computer virus attacks has prompted calls for tighter regulation of the "failing" anti-virus industry.

Sections of the AV industry love quoting gargantuaan headline figures from studies of damage caused by viruses. So it is little surprise that other vendors are picking up on this trick.

At last week's RSA Conference in San Francisco, Jonathan Schwartz, EVP of Sun's software group, put up a slide suggesting Windows security problems had cost the world $100bn. He failed to say where this colossal figure came from, but said that Sun's estimate (of monetary damages) was probably even higher.

Former cybersecurity czar Richard Clark picked up the theme by arguing that the virus problem had got so bad that tighter regulation needs to be considered.
He was "philosophically opposed to regulation" unless a market was failing but argued that the anti-virus market had reached this point.

"The dollar value of damage due to worms and viral attacks is doubling every year. If that isn’t a definition of failure I don’t know what is. I'm not calling for a Federal Internet Regulation Commission but existing regimes need to improve."

In office Clark earned the nickname "Mr Cyber Pearl Harbour" for his predictions of a near-term devastating cyber attack which would debilitate the US’s critical infrastructure. He is now out of office so his comments are significant mainly in showing how policy makers could respond to the unprecedented attention focused on the virus problem.

Regulation is the last thing that anti-virus vendors want. But they could bring it on themselves. After all, who could fail to be alarmed by their alarmist prognostications. Some, surely, must be done. ®

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