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Of Worms and Men
Week of August 29, 2003
Some people will do anything for a second doctorate.
- The boss hides on another floor, in the office of an employee on extended leave, and plays computer games. He tells those around him: 'If anybody comes asking for me, I'm not here.' He later contracts one of the few gifted programmers in the building to write some fancy computer games for his wife's defunct TRS. He wants to take the box into the country.
- The boss's secretary is given a new computer by a systems analyst who tells her: 'I can't use it anymore - I ran out of disk space.'
- A marketing exec on the second floor is awash in chat rooms and porn sites. He's supposed to be out selling but he figures what the heck. A fellow employee comes by and notices something wrong with the exec's box and tells him it's likely he's infected by a trojan. 'So what,' answers the exec. 'How is it bothering me?'
- The boss's secretary talks to a friend that night on the phone and tells her about the 'new' computer. 'Does it come with Windows?' asks the friend. 'I'm not sure,' answers the secretary. 'I think this one has Word instead.'
- The underpaid network administrators sit and relax with their feet up on their desks, reading comic books and techie mags. Screws and bits of wire are strewn across the floor. A small TV is in the corner. Buffy The Vampire Slayer is on. The admin nearest the TV watches enthralled and picks his nose, rubbing the snot on the inside of his front jeans pocket.
- Another one of the admins checks the mail and notices a new message from Microsoft. 'Anything interesting?' asks the admin in front of the TV. 'Just a new vulnerability,' answers the other. Both go back to doing nothing.
- The systems analyst uses his son's computer that evening to do a bit of surfing on his own. Because he is terminally clueless, he doesn't realise the box he is using is severely infected with a veritable cocktail of viruses, worms, and trojans. He burns a CD with a few of the programs he's found and puts the CD in his attache.
- The clever systems analyst brings the CD into work the next morning and inserts it into his desktop computer. Within minutes the entire corporate network, otherwise safe behind their ZoneAlarm firewall, is in a shambles.
- One worm spreads quickly to all the computers connected to the network, goes in and ferrets all the email addresses out of the Outlook address books and starts firing off new attacks disguised as letters from friends. Because the friends and acquaintances of these idiots are just as clueless, the worm will continue to spread violently.
- The boss's secretary's box gives up. It just dies. The systems analyst comes by and shrugs. 'I think I ran out of disk space,' says the secretary. The systems analyst, looking sheepish now, moves on.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer is over; here comes the news. A new Internet worm is spreading - all are advised to batten the hatches and beware. The admin watching the email checks the message from Microsoft again, in the Trash where he'd already put it. But the reporter on the TV doesn't seem to know a lot either, and so the admin is uncertain whether it's the same thing or not. Undecided as to how to proceed, he picks up a copy of PC World and kicks back.
- The talking heads come out of the woodwork. They're all over the TV. One says Microsoft Windows is 'genetically inferior' to all other operating systems. Another says the blunder goes all the way back to MS-DOS. Another attacks Bill Gates for lying about the disappearance of the DOS-prompt.
- The manhunt begins, and right away the media are buzzing with rumours the author of the worm is about to be apprehended. No one seems to remember that the worm appeared in half a dozen variants, and that there cannot reasonably be one author to it all. Several online news sources claim the worm has destroyed over half a million computers.
- Now the boss's computer fails, and he is furious. And he's seen the news broadcasts. The network administrators are given the blame. 'What do I pay you for?' he barks at them.
- The network administrators set to work. Twenty hours later they've cleansed the network and it's business as usual.
- The boss leaves for the weekend, his wife's TRS loaded with a horde of new customised games.
- The system analyst resigns his position, saying he's always wanted to be a Methodist minister.
- The boss's secretary orders a new computer from Dell online. 'Dell is quality,' the boss tells her.
- The network administrators stay home from work for two days. One has a stomach ache; the other has a cold.