Another day, yet another pesky virus

Here’s a quick question for computer users today: how many of you have received hundreds of messages titled “Test,” “Hi,” “Mail Delivery System,” or “Mail Transaction Failed” in the last 48 hours?
I can hear the sound of creaking shoulder blades across the district.
As I watched over 200 messages flood my inbox this morning, I realized that some budding programmer has decide to inflict millions of dollars of damage on computer systems around the world—again.
“Mydoom,” as this most-recent e-mail worm is being referred to, is very similar to other recent virus types in that it spreads by unwittingly e-mailing itself to everyone in your address book.
It also will plant a “key logging” program on your computer that can record your typing on the keyboard and collect user names and passwords. As well, it opens up a back door to your system that can make it easier for less-than-scrupulous individuals to access your machine.
The worm also is having an impact on the performance of the Internet overall, according to Keynote Systems, a performance-monitoring company in California. The top 40 business Web sites in the U.S. have been slowed down by between 25-40 percent as a result of the worm’s activity.
As always, the best defence against being infected by it is to not open any messages that are from addresses you don’t recognize, or, if you do, don’t open or launch any attachments that might be included with the message.
However, there’s an interesting political aspect to this worm that hasn’t really been seen before.
The virus has built into it a scheduled attack to be performed by every computer that is infected by it. On Feb. 1, all infected machines will assault the Web site of Santa Cruz Systems (, a Utah software company.
SCO, as they’re known in the computer industry, currently is embroiled in legal battles with IBM, Red Hat, Novell, and others over the ownership of parts of Linux, the “operating system for geeks,” as it’s been described.
Linux is an “open-source” operating system, meaning that the source code is free to use and you can alter it for whatever purpose you want. The only caveat is you are expected to contribute your changes back to the Linux community for free, as well.
Open source means that, in theory, when many people are contributing, bugs are found faster—and fixed faster—than when using one company’s operating system, like Microsoft Windows or the Macintosh OS.
Many companies and individuals around the world have contributed to the Linux code base, and Linux is used widely for enterprise-level computing needs.
Heck, even the Fort Frances Times Web site and Web clients are hosted on our very own Linux server.
However, SCO, which owns intellectual property relating to Unix, on which Linux originally was based, has filed a lawsuit against IBM, alleging the firm contributed code belonging to SCO to the Linux project.
And they want money for it.
Think it’s confusing so far? It gets worse: SCO won’t tell anyone what the code is that’s been used, so Linux users and programmers worldwide have bombarded SCO with abuse and derision over their supposedly-unsupported legal complaints.
Which takes us back to where we started—the “Mydoom” virus. You and I, as computer users, are caught squarely in the middle of the illegal activities of some angry—and immature, in my opinion—programmer who wants to “get back” at SCO.
Unfortunately, with the experience of investigators, whoever it is could wind up watching the rest of the SCO saga resolve itself from behind bars.
Next week: all about high-speed connections—the good, the bad, and the ugly, and what we can expect in Rainy River District in the near future.

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