You people are such idiots!
Not you, of course. I mean those other people, the ones who make it so easy for every simple, standard virus to propagate across the Web. Twice in the last few weeks, Ive had the same experience. I receive a security notice on a new virus, first Fizzer and then Palyh. I then find out that they infect Windows-based systems when a user opens an attachment from an unsolicited e-mail message. I then think to myself, “This wont be big; everyone knows you dont open attachments in unexpected e-mails.” Then the virus spreads across tens of thousands of systems.
Whats up with these people? Over the last few years, there have been hundreds of new viruses that spread in this manner. Most people figure out that if they keep grabbing the electric fence, theyll get a shock every time. So why do they continue to stupidly open attachments they arent expecting?
To some degree, the fault for this lies with the technology press. We tend to take each new virus too seriously while not taking the time to shame the morons who are making it possible for the viruses to succeed.
Imagine if there were a rash of car thefts where thieves stole a bunch of cars that were left running with the doors open. Reporters wouldnt focus on the cleverness of the car thieves; they would point out the stupidity of the car owners. Or imagine thousands of cases of food poisoning from people eating completely raw chicken. Im sure we would be reading plenty about the cluelessness of the “victims.”
Its time for us to stop admiring virus writers and start dishing out heaping spoonfuls of shame to stupid users.
Instead of a headline like “Dangerous Fizzer Worm Attacks the Internet,” how about “Thousands of Morons Open Obviously Virus-Laden E-mail Attachments”? I kind of like it. It has a light, comedic feel similar to headlines found at The Onion. But as Homer Simpson would say, its funny because its true. Stories like that should embolden smart users so that, instead of accepting their co-workers incompetence, they will feel free to mock and ridicule these Typhoid Marys of the computer world.
The shaming wouldnt have to stop there. IT staff could put up posters identifying the stupidest virus-spreaders in the company. Rank-and-file employees could videotape their co-workers opening attachments with obvious virus subjects such as “Cool screensaver.” We could have a new TV show, “Americas Most Idiotic E-mail Users!” Webcams could be set up peering over the shoulders of those most likely to open an attachment. Watching a virus spread in real time could become a spectator sport.
But seriously, folks. Its very easy to teach even a kid how to avoid infecting most systems with viruses in e-mail attachments. So why isnt this message getting out? Because getting hit with a virus is considered acceptable. Too many people have taken the attitude that viruses are going to happen, and theres nothing you can do to stop them. This isnt true, but many people use it as a convenient excuse for their mistakes.
Obviously, we need to do a better job educating users, but we also need to remove the mystique that surrounds viruses. Virus victims need to realize that many viruses wouldnt exist without them and their careless use of their e-mail accounts.
It doesnt take a whole lot of effort to change. First, users need to be suspicious of the e-mail they receive. If you dont know who its from and the subject is generic, delete it. If there are multiple versions of the same e-mail, its most likely a virus or spam. And never, ever, open attachments that you werent expecting. If you think its something important, double-check with the sender.
When coupled with a good virus scanner, these simple efforts can keep most users from becoming victims of viruses that are doing little more than taking advantage of their stupidity. I follow these basic procedures, and I havent had an e-mail-born virus infect one of my systems in more than five years.
So lets change our attitudes and our tactics. Lets get out the word that most of the time, when people get viruses, its their own fault. Stupidity is nothing to be proud of.