April 01, 2009, 10:02 AM — The Conficker Worm is like the Paris Hilton of computer security: Famous solely for being famous. Neither has actually ever done anything of note. But, at least Paris has a sense of humor about her celebrity. Conficker just wastes people's time.
Your time and mine, for example. You're reading this because someone--not me--convinced you that Conficker matters. I am writing this because IBM has convinced me that Conficker is a wash. If it turns out differently, I'll owe the worm at apology. Paris can fend for herself.
I may host a daily call-in radio program, but I am not a conspiracy nut. Still, don't you sometimes wonder who is responsible for "threats" that develop such a high profile? I am not saying the industry that protects us against these threats might somehow be in cahoots with the people who create them. No, I am not saying that.
Conficker has once again reminded us that our systems are vulnerable and we need to invest $$$ in protection. Or has it already backfired?
Maybe Conficker will prove that what we already have works pretty well. Maybe Microsoft did a good job dealing with this threat and the anti-malware vendors likewise. Maybe Conficker will send the message that what we are doing is just fine, thank you. Spend more money to counter threats like this? Why?
Watching the news coverage as 12:01am local time on April 1 marches around the globe reminds me of the last time we did this. You remember the Y2K bug, don't you?
Back then, the world's mainframes were supposed to croak as 1999 rolled into 2000. Like today, I watched--only back then I was sitting in an emergency operations center--as countries around the global rang in the New Year with their vital infrastructure intact.
Last time, we were saved from a very real problem by a lot of recoding, necessary to work around the time/date problem. This time, we are saved from a not very significant problem by a Microsoft patch that everyone should already have had as well as wide variety of tools capable of clearing Conficker from our systems.
As I write this, Conficker seems to be passing more or less harmlessly by. The clock is actually working in our favor. IBM estimated that Asia has the largest collection of Infected-infected systems. North America about a third as many as Asia. Europe has more than we do.
If Asia and Europe survive Conficker, we don't have much to worry about. Conficker will pass from our consciousness and I won't owe the worm an apology.
If only Paris Hilton were so easy to protect ourselves against.
David Coursey thinks the real worm is Conficker's author. Write to him using the form on his Web site: www.coursey.com/contact.