Monday, April 16, 2012

Worm: The First Digital World War by Mark Bowden

I confess that I have paid little attention to the Malware Wars. It seems that attacks come at fairly regular intervals and the world never ends. I am not alone. As a society, we are pretty immune to news about viruses and worms, but we should be more concerned, according to Mark Bowden, author of Worm: The First Digital World War, which tells how an alliance of volunteers from around the world fought the Conflicker worm in 2008-2009.

Bowden begins his book with a bit of history. It seems there have been pranksters since the beginning of the Computer Age. Brilliant geeks have always found satisfaction in surprising their colleagues by pirating their monitors and sending clever messages buried in software. Then criminals discovered they could send viruses via email that could crash computers or steal personal information and account numbers from unsuspecting victims. Through the decades, the menace has grown. Now terrorists or nation-states can imbed code in millions of computers to make them slaves to their bidding. Personal computer owners might never know they are harboring and assisting malicious attacks on corporate and government websites.

The Conficker story is now out of the headlines but the battle continues. The worm still lives in millions of computers that have not loaded Windows updates properly. To date not much has really happened as the master of Conflicker seems to be biding his time. He has leased the botnet at least once to purveyors of email spam, but the potential for much greater harm, such as attacks on utilities or military command stations, still exists.

Worm is certainly an eye-opening book. I suggest readers with an interest in technology try the audiobook read by Christopher Lane.

Bowden, Mark. Worm: The First Digital World War. Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011. 245p. ISBN 9780802119834.

Also, Brilliance Audio, 2011. 6 compact discs. ISBN 9781455825233.

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