Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Joint efforts @ battling PC virus

Feature of the week:

The huge cost of damages incurred through infectious attacks by viruses at various stages have become a nightmare for stakeholders in their bid to encourage diffusion of Information and Communication Technology usage, reports Remmy Nweke.

STAKEHOLDERS in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) are seriously concerned over the recent evolution of a deadly virus known as Conficker worm, also called Downadup computer virus.

Historically, according to an online encyclopedia, Encarta,virus is a software programme that is written purposely to “infect” other electronic data or system including computer files, usually ran as other executable programmes, structured in a way that makes it to insert a or copies of itself amidst those files.

The first virus, however, is Elk Cloner which was reportedly written in 1982 by Rich Skrenta, had attached itself to the Apple’s Disk Operating System (DOS 3.3). By 1986, the first specific Personal Computer (PC) virus known as cBrain, was discovered and macro viruses emerged in the mid-1990s. By year 2000, the Love Bug virus caused a stir globally with over $10 billion worth of damage recorded on computers and networks.

Within the computer security technology, experts at, for instance, described a virus as a self-replicating programme that spreads by inserting copies of itself into other executable code or documents. Hence, it could be said that a computer virus acts in a manner related to a biological virus, which spreads by inserting itself into living cells.

In a presumed extended analogy, the insertion of the virus into a programme is termed infection, thus, the infected file, mainly refer to as executable code that is not part of a file, becomes a host. Viruses are, therefore, one of the several types of malware also known as malicious software.

And in a layman’s parlance, as said by a Lagos-based Computer artisan, Mr. Jimo Idowu, the term virus is regularly extended to mean computer worms and other sorts of malware. This, he said, could confuse computer users, and as such viruses in the narrow sense of the word are supposedly less common than they used to be, especially when compared to other forms of malware such as worms.

He pointed out that although viruses could be intentionally destructive in terms of destroying data, several other viruses could fairly be gentle in approach or simply irritating. So, some viruses have a delayed payload, which is sometimes called a bomb. Idowu explained further by citing, for instance, that a virus could display a message on a specific day or wait until it has infected a certain number of hosts to be discovered by performing a function that could make it so discoverable or at most, hijack the system in question.

“Therefore, the prevalent harmful outcome of viruses is their unrestrained self-reproduction stanza, which most of the time overflood computer resources,” he said, stressing that nowadays, viruses have gained more popularity due to the spread of the Internet, just as anti-virus software, basically developed to guard against computer viruses, have increased tremendously.

Piqued by the dangerous trend of the likes of Conficker, software gaint, Microsoft Corporation, a fortnight ago announced that it’s aligning forces with coordinating agency for the Internet globally, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), alongside industry notables in leading an online arsenal to get to the root of this deadly virus.

To this effect, Microsoft also announced a reward of $250,000 (about N362,500) for any valuable information that could result in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the illegal and malicious Conficker. And as if this lamentation was not enough, it was penultimately reported that second version of Conficker has hit the Internet barely a week after the joint force was announced.

But association with security researchers, ICANN and operators within the Domain Name System (DNS), as well as Microsoft, disclosed that they had concluded arrangement to coordinate a response designed to disable domains targeted by Conficker.

Microsoft said that the $250,000 reward for information that results in the arrest and conviction of those responsible for illegally launching of Conficker’s malicious code on the Internet, was part of its ongoing security efforts.

The General Manager, Trustworthy Computing Group at Microsoft, Mr. George Stathakopoulos, noted that his firm had always been the forerunner in the search for ways to use a diverse set of tools and develop methodologies to protect customers.

As indicated by him,”By combining our expertise with that of the broader community we can expand the boundaries of defense to better protect people worldwide,” pointing out that as cyberthreats score raises astronomically, a greater level of industry coordination and new tactics for communication and threat mitigation are required.

He also said, multiple initiatives were being engaged across the security industry and within the academia, with Microsoft helping to unify these broad efforts to implement a community-based defense to disrupt the spread of Conficker.

Microsoft’s approach, he said, combines technology innovation and effective cross-sector partnerships to help protect people from cybercriminals, expressing the hope that these efforts would help to contain the threat posed by Conficker among other viruses, as well as hold those who illegally launch malware accountable.

Commenting on the joint force over Conficker, and likes, the chief Internet security advisor at ICANN, Mr. Greg Rattray, noted that the best way to defeat potential botnets like Conficker nicknamed Downadup, in some quarters of the industry, is by the security and Domain Name System communities collaboration. Assuring of ICANN’s support, he said, mostly in the areas of coordinating these kinds of effort to keep the Internet globally secure and stable.

Along with Microsoft, the 16 other organizations involved in this collaborative effort include ICANN, NeuStar, VeriSign, CNNIC, Afilias, Public Internet Registry, Global Domains International Inc., M1D Global, AOL, Symantec, F-Secure, ISC, researchers from Georgia Tech, the Shadowserver Foundation, Arbor Networks and Support Intelligence.

It was based on the misconceptions and threats surrounding the security of using ICT that a new fundamental role was added to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in compliance with the Action Line C-5 of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Action plans, as well as the 2006 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference which charged the Union to build confidence and security in the use of ICTs. Heads of states and governments and other global leaders who participated in WSIS as well as ITU member states entrusted ITU to take concrete steps towards curbing the threats and insecurities related to the information society.

Worthy of note is that the global business community lost estimated $1 trillion, about N148.7 tillion, to cyber criminals, especially on intellectual property and expenditures for repairing associated damages, according to a recent study by anti-virus organisation, McAfee, in the just ended year.

The outcome of the study made available to ITRealms Online showed that its projections were based on responses to a survey of more than 800 chief information officers in the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Japan, China, India, Brazil and Dubai. The respondents estimated that they lost data worth a total of $4.6bn (N684bn) in total and spent about $600m cleaning up after breaches.
Entitled ‘Unsecured Economies: Protecting Vital Information’ the study outcome was released at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Equally, there were some other interesting geographical-related results, even as over one quarter of the respondents said they avoid storing data in China, and 47 per cent of the Chinese respondents said they believed the US poses the biggest security threat to their data.

Although one may argue that Nigeria or Africa precisely was not mentioned in the study, the McAfee report was quick to caution that its discovery revealed that developing countries spend more money on protecting intellectual property than companies in Western world.

Just as respondents, noted that the ongoing recession is only increasing the security risk for corporations, with 42 per cent reporting that displaced workers were the biggest threat to sensitive information on the network.

Remarkable, also was that on May 17, 2007, ITU launched its Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) to provide a framework within which the international response to the growing challenges to cybersecurity could be coordinated and addressed in response to its role as facilitator for C.5. GCA benefits from the advice of a High-Level Experts Group (HLEG) composed by world-renowned specialists in cybersecurity, representing expertise from across a broad range of backgrounds in policy-making, government, academia and the private sector.

Above all, stakeholders at every strata of the society, be it state, nation or region and even corporate organisations, like Microsoft and some over 10 other entities did, need to seriously engage one another, so as to find a way if not ways out of the woods for a better computing in this ICT age.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

1 comment:

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