StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 02/25/01

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StratVantage Consulting, LLC — Mike’s Take on the News 02/25/01

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The News – 02/25/01

Anyone Can Write a Virus

Well here’s disheartening news: Virus creation kits are so popular and easy to use that you, too, could write a virus like the recent Anna Kournikova or ILOVEYOU viruses. According to Wired News, “If you can install a program on a computer, you can also — using one of these kits — write and release a virus just like the authors of Cartman, Poppy and Kenny did.

This problem is brought to you by the friendly folks at Microsoft, as I have ranted before . If it weren’t for the huge vulnerabilities opened by Microsoft’s Visual Basic Script language, which is imbedded into the entire MS Office suite, it would be a good deal harder to write viruses and worms. However, to be fair, this doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t have these do-it-yourself kits floating around out there.

Short aside: I actually hate to pick on Microsoft as they face the horror of being broken up. The company has been the major player that has fostered the computer revolution. But it just doesn’t pay to disregard anti-trust rules, as they are going to find out when the gov breaks them up, sooner or later.

On a positive note for Microsoft, the breakup will not seriously affect the company’s monopoly position in its markets, and might even turn out to be a good thing for shareholders. But I digress.

The thing for businesses to remember is that cybervandalism will continue. You need to educate your associates to never open an attachment unless you are sure of its contents. Plus, disable Visual Basic Scripting support in MS Outlook if you have it, and remove Windows Scripting Host from your computer using Add/Remove Programs. If you see lots of unexpected emails coming from colleagues all in a bunch, call your system administrator before opening any of them. There are various other steps you can take, which are explained on the CERT site or any of the major antivirus makers’ sites (McAfee , Symantec ).

And while we’re on the subject of security, you need a personal firewall as well. Unless your entire network is protected by a firewall that features stateful inspection, each PC should have a firewall. You should especially use one when dialing up while on the road. (Recently, when I was speaking in Palm Springs, I was getting one to two intrusion attempts a minute while dialed up to Earthlink.)

There are a number of good personal firewalls, but the cream of the crop currently is ZoneAlarm , and the good news is, it’s free. Unlike many other firewalls, ZoneAlarm not only keeps the bad guys out, it also prevents programs on your PC from contacting the Internet and doing bad stuff. Programs called Trojan horses can do this, along with various viruses and worms like Anna Kournikova. This makes it a bit of a pain in the butt until you’ve got it fully configured. After you install it, every program you use that contacts the Internet causes an alert to pop up to ask if it’s OK. You can tell ZoneAlarm to remember your answer, though, and after a while, you’ll see alarms only when something unusual happens. However, configuring file and printer sharing in Windows can be a bit tricky, so be prepared to take some time doing that.

But above all, let’s be careful out there!

Wired News

Think Globally, Act Locally

A good marketer segments the market. Even though the Internet is worldwide, it often helps to know who’s buying the most online. Researcher IDC recently released an analysis of US states that includes data on which state’s residents buy the most on the Web.

It’s no surprise to see the largest states dominating the mix. According to IDC:

When combined, California and Texas represented 22% of the country’s consumer Internet spending. Not only do these two states have large populations and healthy average household incomes, but they also are in the group of states that spent more than 0.8% of their total household income on purchases via the Internet. The average for the United States was 0.69%.

But 13 other states spend more per capita, over 0.8 percent. And the leaders, with more than 1.25 percent, were a trio of states that might surprise you: New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. So if what you sell appeals to folks in those states, a strong Internet marketing program is in order.


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