Sunday, 16 June 2013

Why can’t a computer be more like a car?

B received an email from X today.  It began ‘good morning!’, which isn’t X’s normal greeting, and contained a link.  Because they’d met yesterday at an emotionally charged event, B unwisely clicked on the link.  Very smart AV software warned her that this was a risky site, which had already tried to put a virus on her computer, and advised her to clean – mop it up and bin it.
At this point, B phoned me, because she’d had a similar problem last year which was even smarter.  The link didn’t just download its viral software, it also fairly accurately mimicked the AV system’s response: and if you accepted the spurious advice, it went ahead and installed the virus!  Well, you have to draw a line somewhere, I said, so go ahead and clean.  She did, and it seems to have worked.
What happened here is that, somehow, X’s address book had been stolen and used by criminals to disseminate their warped misanthropic excrement.  Why those people feel it’s necessary or appropriate to waste all that effort and brainpower is a question for the psychiatrists, not me.

When I get in my car tomorrow, I don’t expect it to behave any differently from today.  I don’t expect anyone (either BMW or someone pretending to be them) to have changed the layout of the pedals or the way the lights or the indicators function, overnight, without asking me.  Nor do I expect my next tank of petrol to behave at all unlike the previous one.  Until computers and their operating software (the car), and applications (the petrol), subject themselves to similar principles of self-regulation and quality control, IT will continue to be an infantile industry.

Just as a debating start point for tomorrow’s G8, can’t spam detection be lit through the same Prism as everything else seems to be?  That’d be a damned sight more helpful use of all that wasted effort, machinery and petrol.


  1. I've always been very appreciative of the extra protection of having a Mac, but I still get the fraudulent emails. Total pain in the neck, and quite upsetting for the person whose email has been hacked into.

  2. I'm not sure that wearing a raincoat would've helped.

    The spam emails are getting very clever - I nearly fell for one about our eBay shop recently.

  3. Good old AVG. I am very fortunate not to have had anything viral attach itself to my home PC. Yet.

    I'm not sure if this is down to good luck or good judgement. I have 2 email accounts, both of which automatically chuck about 80% of the spam I receive into a spam folder. I have had a few emails that purport to be from friends which clearly are not and have become reasonably good at recognising dodgy messages without opening them . Having said all that, by the law of averages I am bound to get caught out eventually.

    I do think that the IT industry has got better at protecting users from morons and hopefully anti-virus software and spam detection will continue to improve. Keeping with the motoring analogy, the car I own now always starts first time but I could not have said that about any of the vehicles I owned in the late 1980s and early 90s (my Mark 3 Ford Escort broke down on average once every 2 months). Hopefully the reliability of anti-virus technology will improve in the same way as the reliability of cars.

  4. I must have one of those infantile brains because I'd quite like it if my car took to do different things ...

  5. As a Mac user, even though I feel relatively safe, I still have the firewall on and Sophos running in the background.

  6. Wot, no rants? You're all so mature and sensible. Well, mostly.

  7. I am neither mature nor sensible. I have had no issues with dodgy emails. In fact, I now have a new friend who is a prince in some West African country that I'd never heard of.

  8. Sir B, ask your friend for his bank account and passwords, just to prove his authenticity.

    What bugs me most is the banality. Here's a quote: "Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point".

    Video? I've never blogged a video. And "thats", and "literally"? Preachy illiterate tw*t.

    And BTW Anonymous, as I'm sure you're reading this, I am quite happy with my size, thank you very much. Not sure about you.

    Rant done!

  9. I wasted some time trying to think of an answer to your question Tim and couldn't think of anything better than "because a computer isn't a car".
    One of Barney's stamp club friends seems to get his email hijacked regularly. The rest of the club no longer ring each other up to ask whether he really might have been mugged in Barcelona. And I furiously hate that I need to worry about each unsolicited and plausible email that arrives in Barney's inbox in case it's a scam.

  10. I think the dodgy emails are in code and we have to solve the code to win the prize.