Daniel Eran Dilger
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A Worm in the Apple: Why Are Pundits Promoting Terrorism?

A Worm in the Apple: Why Are Pundits Promoting Terrorism?
Daniel Eran Dilger
Every comfortable society demands security. By demanding security, we promote a secure future. We train our children to talk instead of fight, to work instead of steal, and to educate themselves instead of cowering in ignorance and hatred of others.


As generations of humans learn to become more diplomatic, more moral, and more enlightened, our society becomes more secure, and we become able to enjoy things that we could never develop or produce or afford in a world plagued by the destruction of war, with markets overturned by rampant pillaging and unchecked fraud and a populace handicapped by ignorant superstitions.

Our Internet.
One of the pleasures our society has created during the last half century of relative peace is what I consider the greatest man-made wonder of the world: an army of electronic assistants connected together by the Internet.

Credit for this pinnacle of human achievement goes to the early pioneers who learned how to harness the forces electricity, and then moved on to create diodes and transistors and then shrink them into tiny logical arrays that perform tasks that are difficult to fathom.

All that fancy hardware would be useless without the work of software engineers who developed the programatic languages used to orchestrate these microscopic parts. Layers of software build upon each other to add new chords of functionality that deliver behaviors and calculations that are overwhelmingly complex but also expose a certain genius in the simplicity of their human interface.

There are also the artists who have contributed their own work to building our hardware and software, who not only embellish the attractiveness of our environment, but conceive the hardware designs that make our computing devices more practical and natural to use, and develop the software art that makes our computing interfaces more human: more forgiving, more consistent, more beautiful, and more intuitive.

There are sales people, marketers, and retailers who distribute these digital accomplishments and funnel money back to the engineers and artists who create them, so that new generations of even better devices can continue to be developed. Our networked world of computers enable us to do everything we do better and more efficiently.

Why would we encourage terrorists to destroy such a foundation of our society?

The Turning Tables of Terrorism.
Terrorism is such a heavy word. Despite all of the extraneous connotations attached to it, terrorism is simply the practice of using fear–and usually violence or destruction–to create radical change. In our past, we have celebrated terrorists who overthrew entrenched and corrupt systems that held back progress and freedom.

Our nation was built upon terrorism. Demonstrating against the injustices and brutal treatment of a foreign monarchy dictating our local government, freedom fighters attacked the prevailing colonial government, destroyed property, and started a war that removed America from being a subservient set of colonies and established it as a sovereign nation.

Once our freedom from foreign meddling was removed, we quickly determined that any new divisions of thought would not be allowed. Suddenly, fighting for radical change and independence was outlawed.

We fought a bloody Civil War to keep the US together, we mercilessly slaughtered hundreds of existing nations of Native Americans, and then began capturing colonies of our own, including Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and other territories that expanded our own national interests. We then fought dictators in Europe and Japan to preserve a world where individual nations would not grab resources that didn’t belong to them.

We then invaded Korea and then Southeast Asia in failed efforts to prop up dictators who supported our interests. We have since attempted to install or protect dictatorships that supported our own nationalist interests in Africa, Central and South America, Asia and the Middle East.

We play both sides of the nation building and society destroying game: we demand a peaceful, stable society for ourselves while inflicting destruction on other parts of the world when it plays into the needs of our own businesses to do so.

We do this because we are inherently violent, selfish, and ignorant. The only way to stop our cycle of hypocrisy is to learn and practice peace and altruism, and educate ourselves with the principles that make us more human and less beastly. Other nations must do the same. However, it’s far easier to develop altruistic, peaceful enlightenment when in a world that is at peace, engaged in dialog, and pursuing rational education.

Creating more propaganda to incite violence and ignorant hatred against fictionalized enemies is not a form of education, nor is advocating terrorism as the only way to counter the control of a corrupt society.

Internet Terrorists.
Since we’re working so hard to promote a better society for our children, why would we advocate and glorify terrorists who want to destroy our way of life? Nobody would celebrate the plans of a terrorist plotting to poison a city’s water supply, or to destroy transportation infrastructure to demonstrate how perilously fragile our road and rail networks are.

That being the case, why does the press celebrate the creation of software designed to terrorize the Internet and its users, particularly when Apple is involved? Why is the pet name of an anonymously cloaked terrorist splashed around after he simply threatens to own malicious software designed to attack innocent users’ computers?

Over the last two decades, the media has stolen the term hacker–a word originally used to describe the heroic and often independent engineers who advanced the state of the art–and applied it as a term for terrorists who break into systems to steal, to destroy, or to advance their own careers as security experts.

Sometimes the line is drawn into grey areas. Is it theft to hack the national phone system to place free calls? Is it destruction to exploit ineffectual security and plant a flag demonstrating the need for better security? Is it in any way criminal to open up a closed product for personal use?

Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, the founders of Apple computer, were known for making and distributing the blue box designed to prank the phone company and steal free calls. Thirty years later, a new generation of crackers are looking for ways to exploit Apple’s own iTunes store and its iPhone business model with the telephone company.

Where does experimental hacking end and terrorism begin?

[Blue box (phreaking) – Wikipedia]
[iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon – Amazon]

Terrorism and Defended Soil.
The definition between hackers and terrorists is as subjective as the difference between freedom fighters and terrorists: that definition depends entirely upon one’s attachment to the losing side. The British once viewed Americans as terrorists, as did the Vietnamese and as do today’s Iraqis. In each case, the “losing side” was fighting a war to defend their own way of life on their own soil.

We view the Saudi bombers who blew up the World Trade Center as terrorists, the ultra right wing militia militants who blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building as terrorists, and the religious cults that blow up abortion clinics or erect gun blazing stand offs with Federal police as terrorists. In each case, the losing side was similarly fighting against our society on our own soil.

Taking Sides in a World Without Soil.
The Internet has no home soil. An attack on computers is an attack on companies and individuals everywhere and nowhere. Therefore, how the media decide to cover a terrorist attack that only threatens Mac users says a lot about the soil they are defending.

Are they defending a world owned by Microsoft, an unstable world rife with terrorist attacks which their vendor of choice has been largely ineffectual at controlling? Do they view the Mac as a threat to their wonderful world of Windows, a devastating exposition of its failings as a platform?

If they do, it would make sense to promote terrorism against it, just as Bill O’Reilly advocated terrorism against San Francisco, a city that similarly challenges convention and threatens to expose the ineffectuality of a monoculture ideology based on frantic nationalism, violence, and ignorant hatred.

From that angle, the celebration and heroic presentation of an anonymous terrorist waving his self-serving, purported big Mac worm attack looks as ridiculous as a neo-fascist war monger’s glee over the prospect of a terrorist attack upon Coit Tower, a monument erected to celebrate the firemen who saved San Francisco during the Great Earthquake.

[Talk host’s towering rant: S.F. not worth saving – SF Chronicle]
[O’Reilly to San Francisco: “You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead” – Media Matters]

200511111717

You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.
The most embarrassing part of the celebration that Macs are now “as susceptible to malware as Windows” is the definition of susceptible, which is “likely or liable to be influenced or harmed by a particular thing.” The Mac simply isn’t at all “likely or liable” to be influenced by malware, while Windows PCs most certainly are.

This new Bonjour worm exploit is as yet an unproven claim. However, we also know there are over 10,000 live malware products for Windows. So it’s not really true that Macs are just as susceptible, or there would be real problems for Mac users. There are no real malware problems for Mac users.

That doesn’t mean there will never be Mac exploits or security problems and that users needn’t bother to be concerned about security issues, but it does highlight the absurdity of a media willing to repeat the unproven claims of an anonymous nobody who is threatening to unleash an attack innocent people, not to defend his freedom and home soil, but in order to get paid as a mercenary terrorist.

Dave Aitel of the security software company Immunity marginalized the achievement of the Bonjour worm writer, saying, “most likely he found a stack overflow in mDNS, which is perfectly possible. It is open source, after all.”

At the same time, Aitel also announced to his DailyDave mailing list that “OS X is horribly insecure.” Is that because its open source software foundation makes it easier to find and report potential exploit vulnerabilities, or because there actually is a lot of malware plaguing the experience of Mac users?

[Apple should be treated ‘like children’ over security – Techworld]
[InfoWorld Publishes False Report on Mac Security]

Purported Mac OS X Malware.
Slashdot’s presentation of the claimed worm threat cited InqTana and Leap as “known Mac OS X malware,” but reality does not support that claim.

Droppedimage-3

InqTana was only a proof on concept worm designed to spread between Macs with Bluetooth file sharing enabled. It only ever existed in a lab and its propagation method has since been patched.

In reality, more problems resulted from anti-virus software panicking at the false discovery of InqTana infections than anyone actually experienced from a real world infection. That’s because InqTana was never a real world threat, while panicking is always a threat to security.

[Helpful Mac OS X worms?: Bluetooth, red herring – Robert Vamosi, CNET]
[Sophos in Mac OS X worm false alarm – The Register]

Leap is a trojan horse for iChat that is unable to replicate. It is as dangerous as sending someone a chat request and telling them to pour water on their computer.

A third exploit, known as OSX.Macarena, was described as a virus in the press, but similarly only existed as a lab experiment. Symantec awarded Macarena its lowest-possible threat rating, but many still criticized the company for advertising the hypothetical threat as a way to sell more Mac anti-virus software. All three have been neutralized by security patches.

If that is the extent of known Mac OS X malware, the media should be celebrating the discovery a secure computing paradise, not gleefully egging on terrorist attacks against it.

[Worm Claimed For Apple OS X – Slashdot]
[Triple threat to Mac OS X largely academic – SecurityFocus]

Turning to the Dark Side.
Echoing Bill O’Reilly, John Dvorak wrote last year that the creation of Mac malware was “good for the computer-using community at large, since it will take some pressure off of the PC platform — at least until the new Vista operating system from Microsoft arrives and provides fresh meat for the malware coders.”

“When and if these Mac attacks come to an end, we’ll also have a much better handle on how superior (if at all) the Mac OS really is,” Dvorak wrote. His terrorism-friendly rhetoric should prompt MarketWatch to cancel his farcical commentaries, which are presented as serious business analysis. Shame on MarketWatch.

MarketWatch’s Dow Jones parent company is now owned News Corp, making Dvorak and O’Reilly partners in crime and servants of the same master: Rupert Murdoch.

America can’t bear the thought of foreign owned airlines, but doesn’t mind selling off its media and its journalistic integrity to a foreigner with a clear political agenda who cultivates cults of personality behind extremists such as O’Reilly. Murdoch naturalized in 1985 to skirt American broadcasting ownership laws, but the highly profitable News Corp pays no US income taxes, due to its offshore accounting.

Enderle-2

Dark Reading, a Tech Web / CMP franchise that employs Rob Enderle and Curt Franklin, similarly instills fears of a world where Macs might someday turn into a full blown, code red threat, if anyone were to use them. Enderle even started worrying readers about the “damned” iPhone’s security, months before its launch.

[Tax free: Rupert Murdoch’s zero status – BBC News]
[Dvorak: Why the Apple virus attack is good news, Feb. 2006 – MarketWatch]
[John Dvorak: How Wrong Can One Guy Be?]
[Mac OS X vs Linux: Third Party Software and Security]

Darthvorak-2

No Schadenfreude For Windows Flaws.
Most Mac users also use Windows on occasion, and are certainly not excited about having to install or maintain police state security measures simply to prevent a malware catastrophe from erupting.

Nobody is happy to see Windows users struggle with more problems than their native system already presents on its own.

Windows as a platform is known to be a security nightmare and the regular victim of expensive and embarrassing exploits that actually exist, not theoretical lab experiments. Much of these stem from Microsoft’s own business model, which has been supported by a history of unsafe practices:

• Unnecessary open ports and protocols that require a set of firewall diapers to contain the resulting mess.

• Proprietary software with unknowable amounts of software flaws, which lacks any open peer review.

• Initiatives that throw unsafe software architectures–such as ActiveX web controls–into the market in a bid to gain and maintain monopolist control.

• A fascination with adware revenues that expose and exploit users’ privacy.

[Three Reasons Why Microsoft Can’t Ship (and Apple can)]

Cds

No one should encourage more woe upon Windows users, and I don’t see that happening among Mac users. Apple does advertise the Mac as a solution to the problems Windows users suffer, but it does not encourage, abet, or finance the creation of Windows malware or new exploits against it, nor has it ever plugged in a PC to the Internet in an onstage “bake off” to dramatically demonstrate how quickly a Windows PC would fall prey to Internet malware.

Advocating and celebrating attacks against the Mac–particularly ones that are not even proven to exist–is really a message of ignorance our society doesn’t need to cheer on. The fact that a malicious exploit is being threatened by an anonymous coward–who claims to have been paid to deliver his exploit as a message that the Mac is “as susceptible” as Windows–should be booed, not applauded.

What do you think? I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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