The black dot virus

Computer security is a bit like climate change. Everyone knows it’s a problem, but it doesn’t affect them. I just did an online training course today about what not to do with your computer. One question was so dumbfoundingly out-of-date that it is worth repeating. It asked what I should do if a black dot appeared on my screen, a clear indication that I had received a “computer virus”. Now, I don’t know if most people realise this, but if your computer gets infected with malware nowadays, it is most likely to financially motivated, and not at all in the malware author’s interest to notify you via a “black dot”. My company should have been warning me about social network based attacks, such as this one.

Also, Apple has convinced many mac users that they are more secure than Windows users. This is not entirely accurate. Now, back in the ’90s just after I installed Windows XP, I got a worm within 5 seconds. I knew exactly what I’d done wrong – I’d plugged the network cable into the modem directly and not into the router – had I been more careful and plugged it into the router, I’d have had firewall protection, which Windows XP lacked. Guess what, OS X ships with a very powerful firewall, but it’s disabled by default. One interesting titbit from the article:

The UNIX design came from a time when security was less of an issue and not taken as seriously as it did, and so does the job adequately. Windows NT (and later OSes) were actually designed with security in mind and this shows. Windows was not such a target for malware because of its poor security design; it is because the security functionality was never used.

I don’t mind which platform I use, they’re all pretty insecure. The weakest link is the human being.

2 thoughts on “The black dot virus”

  1. Good post, and good article you link to Ed. Many of my clients think Macs are somehow immune to malware – I quickly disabuse them of that notion. However, keeping Windows secure is a chore, and a real mystery to most PC users. (More often than not, I get my clients to use Microsoft Security Essentials + Google Chrome + OpenDNS: that seems to do the trick.)

    I wish IT in schools were less about garish PowerPoints and more about security and actually USING the damn things sensibly. Actually the best preparation for the online world IMNSHO is learning history, if only because it helps sharpen your bullpoo detector. (Discuss)

  2. XP was probably quite insecure back in the ’90s, since it wasn’t released until 2001 😉
    But yes, it feels like it was so long ago.

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