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Anything to Pump Up the Dumbed Down Masses

Two articles are compared: one from the Washington Post and another from the McAfee computer virus information web site. The Washington Post clearly shows journalistic incompetence and blatant media spin. A comparison of the articles also clearly shows how the corporate mass media will use anything it can get its hands on to invoke panic in the people and the words "Department of Homeland Security".
Links to the entire articles are posted below.

First of all the Washington Post article says

"Most infected computers will have to be rebuilt from scratch unless their owners instead decide to buy new ones, said Ken Dunham, a computer security expert at iDefense."

This statement is total nonsense. First of all the author does not tell us if the person quoted is referring to computer hardware or computer software. The phrase "decide to buy new ones" suggests that the speaker is talking about computer hardware. No computer virus has ever been known to destroy hardware. Computer viruses affect software NOT hardware. Secondly the speaker implies that an infected machine will almost certainly suffer a complete crash.

An article on the Witty Worm virus at the McAfee web site had this to say about the virus:

"Rebooting an infected system removes the virus from memory and the virus will not be reloaded on system startup. Note, however, that a system running a vulnerable BlackIce product may get reinfected without updating to the latest version or removing the product from the system.

This worm spreads using network traffic only. There are no emails sent or files dropped on the machine. The user does not have to run anything and can't see anything of the infection process."

Later on the Washington Post author could not simply state the facts, but had to throw in the comment "Officials at the Department of Homeland Security, which is in charge of the government's cybersecurity efforts, were unavailable for comment." What is this comment supposed to suggest? That, if available for comment, the Dept of Homeland Security officials would tell us that all users of BlackIce firewall have to install the update patch? Duh....! Or, that we are offering a $100K award to information leading to the arrest of the creator of the Witty Worm virus? What if the creator of this virus works for, say, a foreign intelligence agency?

Finally, to top off the already ludicrous statements made earlier, the author quotes yet another "industry expert" who says "In an analysis of the worm, Stewart wrote that the worm corrupts the computer hard drive in a similar way that a pathogen feeds on its host in order to spread." A software worm does not "replicate", therefore this statement is total nonsense. To repeat the McAfee statement "This worm spreads using network traffic only", there are no memory resident programs, or programs written to disk involved.

If the corporate mass media will spin even the dumbest of stories, what must it be doing to more serious stories?

Washington Post article:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A11310-2004Mar20?language=printer

McAfee Article:  http://us.mcafee.com/virusInfo/default.asp?id=description&virus_k=101118
incorrect statement 21.Mar.2004 21:22

but the rest of your assertions are probably correct

No computer virus has ever been known to destroy hardware. Computer viruses affect software NOT hardware.

This statement is false. There have been viruses in the past that overwrote the flash ROM where the motherboard stores the BIOS. These viruses required replacing the motherboard (or at least the flash ROM component...)

Here's a link to the first article I grabbed off google: http://www.internetwk.com/news/news0721-4.htm

Not incorrect 21.Mar.2004 22:07

geek lite

Flash ROM is firmware. Re-writing firmware is not the same as destroying hardware.

In the olden days, some disk drives were susceptible to this neat little trick: there often was a command that would send the heads on an overspeed seek from cylinder 0 to the spindle. Often, this would cause a head crash or similar.

Keep reading 21.Mar.2004 22:14


The author of "incorrect statement" may not have read the article they cited. In it is this statedment:

"The virus [Win95/CIH] doesn't seem to be horribly widespread," said Dave Chess, a virus researcher at IBM's Watson Research Center. "We've had no reports of damages to our customers from it."

What 22.Mar.2004 07:22


What if the creator of Witty Worm works for, say, a domestic intelligence agency?