Koobface returns! Quick, ban all social media!
Link to Mashable story.
So, looks like Koobface is back. They’ve added some twists to the virus that made headlines last month. Viruses are the most frequent reason policy makers cite when moving to ban social media in the military workplace. However, I wanted to take a few minutes to discuss viruses, social media,human nature (i.e. the predictability of stupidity) and why I believe blaming social media is ridiculous.
First, for the newer technology cats out there, computer viruses aren’t natural. They don’t “just happen.” They aren’t God-breathed. They are the willful, malicious invention of individuals.
A lot of times, viruses are just someone’s attempt at attention. A virus will exist to propagate itself and little else. Annoying, rude, inappropriate, but with little actual harm. Of the thousands of computer viruses created each month, however, two or three can do serious harm. These are the ones that stop people in their tracks. They shut down systems, erase data–all that fun stuff.
Viruses, regardless of what they do, pose a threat to network security. It is in techies’ 10 commandments to ferret out computer viruses wherever they exist and to establish network stability in all corners of the virtual workspace.
However, as any IT guy will tell you, the idea that viruses enter computer networks via ninja super hackers (or any incarnation of cyberpunk fantasy) is untrue. By and by, we infect ourselves. Viruses mainly spread by people clicking links.
You see, computer makers aren’t total morons. Machines are created to maintain basic information sovereignty. We aren’t in the age of the government having control over our machines just yet (though that’s coming). So, for an outsider to access your machine, you either have to leave it unprotected, or you have to choose to run a program on your machine that unlocks your protection.
Koobface operates like most computer viruses. Messages are sent out (in this case, tweets, Facebook or MySpace messages) to random people, asking them to click on a link. If you choose to click on that link, and then choose to run an “upgrade” to your video player, you infect yourself. Once infected, Koobface sends itself out now through your account.
It’s very much like an actual house. Leave the door unlocked, or open a ground floor window and put out a sign that you’ve done so, and you might get robbed. It’s also very much like catching a cold. Don’t wash your hands, or make out with sick people, and you might catch the cold.
What steams my trousers is when viruses are used as the reason to keep us out of the social-mediasphere. For leaders and IT managers, banning social media is “safer” (i.e. easier). And I agree, it is “safer” for networks to limit traffic, just like establishing curfews in war-torn regions is “safer.” Searching every vehicle that pulls up to an airport is “safer.”
But at what cost?
Social media is how I communicate. It is how the president wants me to communicate. It is how the secretary of defense wants me to communicate. It is how the chairman of the joint chiefs, the secretaries of the branches, the chiefs of staff and large swaths of commanders want me to communicate. It is the evolution of communication. Faster, fitter, more productive, free, easy and beneficial.
Policy makers who ban social media because of the threat of viruses make no sense to me. Are we still in the era of burning towns to stop the plague? Do we ban cars when a teenager drives drunk? Do we ban computers when someone writes a computer virus?
No. We continue the eternal better mousetrap/better mouse game. We improve hygiene; we pass laws and enact training; we improve our firewalls.
The reason we all get six dozen daily emails saying we’ve won tens of millions of dollars in Kenyan lotteries is because people keep answering the emails. The reason we keep getting mountains of junk mail is because people still respond. The reason chain letters from the 60s keep showing up as FWD: YOU MUST READ THIS!!!11!!” emails is because people keep forwarding them. The reason computer viruses are written to spread via user-initiated clicks is because people still voluntarily infect themselves.
But instead of chopping off my arm, how about we heal the wound, doc? Don’t cut me off from the social-mediasphere because jerks blindly click links from untrusted sources. Figure it out, policy makers. That’s why policy makers make mountains more money than I do. Hell, any of us could have come up with the “shut down everything” solution and saved a lot of money.
It reminds me of my time at college. I went to a bible college that had a lot of social rules–no drinking, no dancing, no secular music, no cursing, no public displays of affection, curfews, mandatory chapel service. You see, it’s far easier to shut something down because of the “threat” of something (don’t know where dancing might lead…better ban it outright; don’t know where hand-holding or kissing might lead, better ban it). But that’s no way to live. Sure it’s harder to teach someone to use something correctly–teach him or her to fish rather than just throwing one to them, but that’s not a permanent solution.
Social media is the new communication paradigm. We should stop running away from it at the first clap of thunder. Threats and risk shouldn’t lead us to catatonic inaction.
If the president left his travel agenda scheduling up to the Secret Service, he’d never leave the White House bunker (“Safer” is easier.). If an aircraft’s flight status was left up to the mechanic, it would never leave the hanger (Why risk the wear and tear? More work). Likewise, IT shouldn’t just say why we can’t do something, but should do more working with leadership to figure out how to balance risk and operation.
About salemonzBorn in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.
Hey there! I'm a former Army print journalist and DoD social media zealot. I spend my days in the public relations and marketing worlds, chatting about technology and working on fun side projects.
I write, dance and do most things.
- Ruthven78 🐟 (@ruthven78) on Sometimes, let people be wrong
- Ruthven78 on Sometimes, let people be wrong
- FreyaFyre on Sometimes, let people be wrong
- Abbey on My utter failing as a human as told by my lawn
- Salmons on My utter failing as a human as told by my lawn
- salemonz on This is my bag. There are many like it, but this one is mine
- Ted Salmons on This is my bag. There are many like it, but this one is mine
- Ted Salmons on New Years New Years hooray for New Years
- salemonz on The mind’s remembering
- Meghan Kathleen (@meghankathleen) on The mind’s remembering
- Hey @Lowes...question: Getting a new dual fuel range from you guys Monday. Delivery guy will haul away old gas rang… twitter.com/i/web/status/1… 3 months ago
- Celebrating my Navy mom and dad for Veterans Day! @USAA #HonorThroughAction https://t.co/owxUaHxMTr 7 months ago
- Happy 71st to the men and women - past and present - of the @usairforce! We're honored & humbled to be able to serv… twitter.com/i/web/status/1… 9 months ago
- RT @Tony_Wells_: RIP. An American Hero...John McCain, War Hero, Senator, Presidential Contender, Dies at 81 via @NYTimes https://t.co/VYK… 10 months ago
- December 2014 (1)
- November 2014 (5)
- October 2014 (7)
- September 2014 (2)
- April 2014 (1)
- March 2014 (2)
- February 2014 (2)
- January 2014 (4)
- December 2013 (3)
- November 2013 (2)
- October 2013 (3)
- September 2013 (7)
- August 2013 (3)
- July 2013 (8)
- June 2013 (2)
- March 2011 (2)
- October 2010 (4)
- September 2010 (2)
- August 2010 (1)
- July 2010 (7)
- June 2010 (1)
- May 2010 (3)
- April 2010 (1)
- January 2010 (3)
- October 2009 (2)
- September 2009 (5)
- August 2009 (6)
- May 2008 (8)
- February 2008 (3)
- January 2008 (7)
- December 2007 (5)
- November 2007 (7)
- October 2007 (10)
- September 2007 (8)
- August 2007 (8)
- July 2007 (11)
- June 2007 (9)
- May 2007 (11)
- April 2007 (7)
- March 2007 (6)
- February 2007 (3)
- January 2007 (6)
- December 2006 (5)
- November 2006 (8)
- October 2006 (12)
- September 2006 (11)
- August 2006 (14)
- July 2006 (11)
- June 2006 (11)
- May 2006 (13)
- April 2006 (8)
- March 2006 (7)
- February 2006 (17)
- January 2006 (15)
- December 2005 (12)
- November 2005 (14)
- October 2005 (19)
- September 2005 (7)
- August 2005 (19)