Stick to the Facts,
Please"> The mistaken report reminds me a lot of when a war breaks out; inevitably there are stories in the media that turn out to be utterly untrue. In the rush of things early in battlein this case, the shock we all felt from the magnitude of the MyDoom.A attacktheres always clamoring even for rumors. Sometimes people make bad assumptions, and mistakes are made. Although this isnt surprising, we should expect better of the Department of Homeland Security. Ill anticipate a lot of the reaction to this column by adding that it was perfectly reasonable and appropriate for US-CERT to issue an advisory about MyDoom.B and to express caution about it. I was also very concerned about it at the time. But it wasnt too long before I heard from several reliable sources of my own that MyDoom.B had no traction at all, at least as best as anyone could determine for sure.Now, I dont believe for a second that US-CERT simply made up the claim that it actually was spreading rapidly. But still it was a really important claim and it wasnt true. The incident made me scrutinize the site and alerts, and I noticed that old versions of the online alerts arent available. Better systems include not just a set of dates for revisions, but an actual change log. Shouldnt a system with government involvement be at least as transparent as the private ones available? US-CERT intends to be authoritative, and thats a good thing. True, there are lots of places you can go for this information, yet they want to be the one that everyone can rely on. Even though I think were well-served by the variety of alert services, both for pay and free, Im rooting for US-CERT. Still, it will take a while before I get beyond this first impression. We can only hope that US-CERT addresses whatever that snafu was that caused them to stumble so badly right out of the gate. Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Be sure to check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at security.eweek.com for the latest security news, views and analysis.
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Given such circumstances, I would think that an appropriate alert would say something like: "given the virulence and dangerous potential of MyDoom.A, and the new, dangerous techniques employed by MyDoom.B, we are concerned about the potential for rapid spread and consequent damage." This way theres no claim about anything that wasnt known to be true.