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George Smith

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US prepares for killer prayer bead WMD attack

Did you know you can buy a WMD on eBay? It's true. Right here. Those are rosary peas, seeds of the Crab's Eye weed, which is commonplace in Florida and known as ratti in India. It also contains the protein abrin, which is more toxic than ricin, another similar enzyme. Somehow mankind has muddled through, managing not to …
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Great WMD failures: Casey, the castor oil killer

Chemical Alley Be now assured that America is safe from a drug addict trying to make a weapon of mass destruction from castor oil, a laxative. This comes by way of the example of Casey Cutler, a drug addict from Mesa, Arizona, who wound up in the Department of Justice's 2006 count of WMD terror cases broken up by the government. It was …
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Cyberterror sim scares pants off of Wired smarty

Momentary horse-laugh of the day goes to Chris Suellentrop, an editor at Slate, writing in Wired about becoming a convert to the decrepit church of cyberterror in "Sim City: Terrortown:" As someone who fancies himself a smarty-pants Washington writer, I had been convinced by the smarty-pants Washington elite that the threat of …
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Low-tech anthrax still deadly? FBI research widens suspect list

Analysis Five years passage has eroded much of the received wisdom on the anthrax attacks. And many of the characters who took central stage are either gone and discredited, or not talking. Judith Miller, an alleged expert on bioterror by way of her pre-9/11 book, "Germs," was often on Larry King to contribute her opinions. In a piece …
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Security muddle better than FUDdle

Whether it's a student slipping contraband past airport metal detectors, or a researcher modeling an unstoppable computer virus - demonstrations just don't do justice to the real state of security, writes SecurityFocus columnist George Smith. Look at a photo of Nathaniel Heatwole, the student who performed pro bono security …
George Smith, 28 Oct 2003
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Fame, Infame, All the Same

Opinion A New York Times researcher -- that's what they're calling themselves these days -- contacted me a couple of weeks ago about a story the newspaper was considering, writes SecurityFocus columnist George Smith. "The World's Most Famous Virus-writers and Hackers!" was the general idea. The researcher was preparing memos on the …
George Smith, 07 Oct 2003
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Viral opportunity

I love the smell of computer virus in the morning. It smells like opportunity! But not victory. Opportunity in the sense that it gives me an opening to heckle anti-virus services over another idiot's 'solution': a notification that a forged message not from you contained a virus. "The e-mail message you sent to [Bloor@ …
George Smith, 26 Aug 2003
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Betting on Malware

DARPA's plan to create a futures market for terrorist activities is dead, but the concept is a natural for predicting viruses and worms, says SecurityFocus columnist George Smith. The fun folks at DARPA were at it again last week, cooking up projects at the nexus of security and the war and terror that somehow manage to offend …
George Smith, 04 Aug 2003
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The Persistence of Hoax is fading into the sunset, while the virus hoaxes it steadfastly debunked seem to live on forever, writes SecurityFocus columnist George Smith. "I received the e-mail this morning from someone who got it from the governor's office," came the tired complaint. Somewhere in the world, government workers in high place …
George Smith, 14 Jul 2003
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From the Booby Hatch

Senator Orrin Hatch says he wants to destroy music swappers' computers, but what he really means is that kids today have no respect for their elders, says SecurityFocus columnist George Smith. "Powerful Senator Endorses Destroying Computers of Illegal Music Downloaders!" trumpeted the Associated Press last week. What a …
George Smith, 23 Jun 2003
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A Special Needs Class

The University of Calgary's new course in virus-writing begs the question: is it a cheap publicity stunt or just boneheaded educating, asks SecurityFocus columnist George Smith. Did you hear the one about the college professor and his virus-writers course? For the final exam students had to work up viruses that land them in …
George Smith, 02 Jun 2003
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Unemployed virus writers take heart

The recording industry is hiring cyber miscreants to attack its own customers. And we thought you'd never amount to anything, writes George Smith, SecurityFocus columnist. Nowhere Man, please listen, the recording industry has a job for you. The pay is good, the work easy and exciting, ripe with opportunity for someone …
George Smith, 12 May 2003
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On spam cures that are worse than the disease

Opinion Which is worst for the Internet: computer viruses, spam that advertises anti-virus products, or clueless anti-spam solutions, asks George Smith, SecurityFocus columnist. How much electronic annoyance can you take? If you're like me, a lot. Take, for example, spam for anti-virus software. In a sublime and almost beautiful …
George Smith, 21 Apr 2003
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Uncle Roger's improper Ganda

Opinion The Ganda virus shows why the Internet isn't the best source for reliable war news, and malicious code isn't a good medium for anything, writes SecurityFocus columnist George Smith. Laugh at the news of poor "Uncle Roger" from Haernoesand, Sweden, the mistreated student/virus-writer rousted by the coppers for creating a virus …
George Smith, 01 Apr 2003
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One printer, one virus, one disabled Iraqi air defence

Did U.S. infowar commandos smuggle a deadly computer virus into Iraq inside a printer? Of course not. So why does it keep getting reported, George Smith asks. A creepy enthusiasm for tales of weird weapons rises as war approaches. Denied substantive information by the Pentagon and grasping for eye-grabbing news, journalists and …
George Smith, 10 Mar 2003
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Bye, cyberczar Clarke – thanks for everything

Opinion The retirement of Richard Clarke is appropriate to the reality of the war on terror. Years ago, Clarke bet his national security career on the idea that electronic war was going to be real war. He lost, because as al Qaeda and Iraq have shown, real action is still of the blood and guts kind. In happier times prior to 9 …
George Smith, 18 Feb 2003
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In computer disease, there is no Edward Jenner

SecurityFocus logo Medical science's eradication of smallpox was easy compared to the Internet's efforts against nasty computer viruses. Here's why. Comparisons between computer viruses and their biological namesake constitute a pillar of almost mystical lore, a foundation of the modern anti-virus industry. One of the first …
George Smith, 07 Jan 2003
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Scary movie 2.0

On Halloween, "The Mangler 2.0" virus took over my TV. It's a horror movie from Artisan Entertainment now available on VHS and DVD. The screenplay was written in nine whole days, bragged the credits. It was just like real life. First off, there is this rich girl, Jo. She's angry at her never-home pop so she puts a virus into …
George Smith, 05 Nov 2002
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Stupid Bugbear tricks

"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 …
George Smith, 15 Oct 2002
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Cheap thrills on the cyber-terror beat

Did you hear of the computer virus that could "attack the Pentagon's ability to mobilize or communicate with its forces" and cripple all government services in a city? I read about it in the Center for Defense Information's July Defense Monitor newsletter. It would be part of an "electronic Waterloo," readers were informed. …
George Smith, 04 Sep 2002
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The original anti-piracy hack

Hey, all you Peer-to-Peer Piracy Prevention Act purveyors! I have a can't-miss technology development plan for you. Buried deep in the stacks of ancient cyber-history, it is called the tale of the AIDS Information Trojan horse. It goes like this: in December 1989, thousands of floppies containing what claimed to be an …
George Smith, 13 Aug 2002
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Ex-Microserf Schmidt as govt cyberterror Cassandra

This month's dose of demented prediction comes to you courtesy of Howard Schmidt, chairman vice of the US President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board. Alleged "zero-day viruses and affinity worms" will sunder business records, as reported in Network World Fusion and credited to a Schmidt speech at an Information …
George Smith, 23 Jul 2002
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Cyberwar is Hell

Cyberwar is Hell, but never too hellish for feverish salesmanship. Take, for example, McAfee's recent botched attempt to sell the public on the merits of the fiendish "JPEG virus" said to be hanging over beloved digital stockpiles of family photos and Swedish pornography like the sword of Damocles. The corporate deployment of …
George Smith, 02 Jul 2002
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Klez, the poor-man's virus

Despite its virulence, the Klez worm is ignored by the newspapers and dismissed by the digerati. Could the demographics of its victims be a factor? Repeatedly dubbed the most common virus ever in recent reports from on-line newsmongers, it has yet to break into print in any interesting way. A box of news clippings near my …
George Smith, 10 Jun 2002
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Anti-virus evals waste precious resources

Opinion In 1991, essayist Paul Fussell wrote, "The current United States can be defined as an immense accumulation of not terribly acute or attentive people obliged to operate a uniquely complex technology, which, all other things being equal, always wins." This was BAD, Fussell said. And it was not just an ordinary "bad," like a …
George Smith, 27 May 2002
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Billion-dollar virus economics

Let us now pause to praise the computer virus cost accountants. We pray they cease their counsel, which falls into our ears as profitless as water in a sieve. Yeah and verily, the computer virus econometrics gurus join a royal college of experts who live primarily to feed statistics and figures to the news media. Well before …
George Smith, 29 Apr 2002
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My daily virus

"I regarded viruses as only good for entertainment," said Guido Sanchez about ten years ago. Sanchez ran Nun Beaters Anonymous, an underground bulletin board system notable for its free viruses and dry wit, the latter a scarce commodity in the world of hacker outlawry. For the record, he also said: "I have nothing against …
George Smith, 08 Apr 2002
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Sentencing commission considers hackers' motives

The courts may one day treat recreational hackers with a gentler justice than malicious intruders and cyber thieves, depending on the results of a study being spearheaded by a member of the government commission responsible for setting federal sentences. Since 11 September and the passing of the USA Patriot Act into law, …
George Smith, 05 Apr 2002
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Senator ‘Cheesy Chuck’ Schumer phears the virus

Poor worm, thou art infected! I mean the computer virus, not its target. Its image ripe and diseased with grand fictions, the gravity and nature of the computer virus phenomenon, as far as the public understands it, is now whatever anyone with the microphone says it is. To wit: "A more technologically sophisticated Timothy …
George Smith, 19 Mar 2002
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Anti-Virus's control fetish

"Network Associates would never sponsor nor condone attempts to censor anyone anywhere." Uttered for Forbes by NAI el Jefe Gene Hodges and published 4 February in an article in which he denied the company had tried to churlishly prevent Vmyths founder Rob Rosenberger from going forward with a commentary embarrassing to the …
George Smith, 28 Feb 2002