Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Under cyberattack. Between yesterday at 3:52 a.m. and today at 8:49 a.m., I received 91 copies of the SoBig virus. So incessant was the invasion that I had to delay posting yesterday's Media Log for several hours.

Because of a peculiarity in the way I choose to have my Phoenix e-mail delivered -- I actually have it forwarded to a different account -- the viruses never get intercepted by the paper's server-level virus-scanning software. So I get every damn one of them.

Fortunately, I can't actually be affected by SoBig: I use a Mac, and can't even open the infected attachments, which carry names such as "application.pif" and "thank_you.pif." But, as many of you already know, the SoBig attack -- one of several virus invasions over the past week -- has slowed down the entire Internet and crashed some sites.

Moreover, each copy of the virus runs around 100 KB (I remember when floppy disks for the Apple II held a maximum of 140 KB), which would make downloading my mail an endless task if I were still on dial-up. That's 9.1 MB of crapola in just a little more than 24 hours.

I also received several computer-generated e-mails from other sites telling me that I had attempted to send the virus to them. I opened them up, and sure enough, the e-mails appeared to be from But they had been sent to addresses I'd never heard of, and that are definitely not in the address book of my e-mail program, Microsoft Entourage.

No surprise there. This is how insidious SoBig and similar viruses have gotten. Once it infects a computer, it burrows into the address book and sends out a copy of the virus to every e-mail address that it finds. All I can be certain of is that someone out there has an infected Windows-based computer with in its address book.

Hiawatha Bray has a good story on the latest virus invasion in today's Globe. If you want to know more, check out InformationWeek and Wired. The Wired piece, by Michelle Delio,appears to make a good case that the endless proliferation of viruses is at least partly the fault of Microsoft.

I'm not in a position to judge, but a little Bill-whacking is always in order.

Horror and quagmire in Iraq. Media Log has been Iraq-free for a bit -- not because I'm not horrified by the way the US-led invasion has descended into all-too-predictable chaos, but because I've been at a loss to find anything that really puts it all in perspective.

But after yesterday's terrorist attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad, it's clear that the quagmire is deepening. On today's New York Times op-ed page, Harvard terrorism expert Jessica Stern offers a brilliant -- and disturbing -- analysis of the situation. Her lead:

Yesterday's bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was the latest evidence that America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one.

Of course, we should be glad that the Iraq war was swifter than even its proponents had expected, and that a vicious tyrant was removed from power. But the aftermath has been another story. America has created -- not through malevolence but through negligence -- precisely the situation the Bush administration has described as a breeding ground for terrorists: a state unable to control its borders or provide for its citizens' rudimentary needs.

How do we get out of it? On the same page, Tom Friedman, as usual, offers some ideas that are both idealistic and useful. But it would have been a lot easier not to have created this disaster in the first place.

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