Monday, March 30, 2009

Mainstream Media on Cybersecurity: 60 Minutes and Conficker

The popular news show 60 Minutes ran a story by Lesley Stahl about the recent Conficker infection, which also struck CBS News coincidentally, and the impact of cybersecurity on consumers, in general.

Though it's textbook media hype, it does cover the basic issues: Russian cybergangs openly distributing and selling malware, the growth of hacking as a business and the spread of malware infections to well-trafficked sites like social networking sites.

But Michael Horowitz on the Defensive Computing blog puts the issue into perspective and the essence of the story evaporates. Horowitz notes the Windows-centric nature of the story, such as the lack of balanced coverage emphasizing that Conficker attacks only Windows system and not Mac or Linux systems.

Another weakness in the story, which, to be fair, is unavoidable for a program aimed at a mass -- and non-technical -- audience, is that we really don't know the security settings on the computer of the woman whose bank account was filched twice. She claims to have had all her anti-viral, anti-spyware and firewall settings all up to snuff. But how many times have those of us heard this same claim in the field from customers only to find otherwise when testing systems?

The story was called "The Internet is Infected." A bit of old-fashioned FUD, isn't it?

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