Waterboarding the computer vandalsWritten by Jim Harpen | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I feel like I have been blasted back into the Stone Age. Not in the postnuclear holocaust sense, but in the cyber sense. My computer – my guide, my strength, my working partner – has been pirated by a character named Conficker. Conficker is a computer worm nastier and craftier than anything Bluebeard could have conjured while swashbuckling his way through the Caribbean.
Before I get into the details, lemme tell ya just how much this intrusion has me hating life at this moment. If you’re still using your computer as a novelty to play games, make buddies on Facebook and forward jokes on e-mail, you can’t relate. But if you use your computer daily to manage your company’s bank accounts, calculate the costs and value of deals and in general run your business, you feel my pain. It’s like running a delivery service and having some punk kids put sugar in your fleet’s gas tanks. The out-of-pocket repair expense isn’t huge, but you’re practically out of business for days. Your livelihood is sidelined.
The first thing Conficker does is – are you ready for this? – turns off your antivirus program so it can have its way with your computer. Talk about playing dirty. Then it behaves like the uninvited guest who walks into your house, grabs a beer from your fridge and sets himself up in your La-Z-Boy with your TV remote, watching what he wants to watch, turning your appliances on and off and unplugging your phone so that you can’t call the police and have him removed. The word “helpless” comes to mind.
Misery loves company, and I found I’m in good company. On Jan. 15, the French Air Force grounded all of its planes at several bases after Conficker blocked downloading of flight plans. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence was also hit. Members of England’s House of Commons were warned not to share flash drives lest Conficker spread. And I read that the computers at the University of Utah have been “Confickered.” Conficker is world traveler that’s globally despised.
My first thought was that this Conficker worm was the work of some “needs a life” geek who doles out French fries by day and creates malicious software in his parents’ basement by night. But the word around the computer water cooler is that it was created by the Chinese military. Whoever it was, I want to see them rooted out, then tarred and feathered. The investigative methods should start with waterboarding and get nastier from there. They should be charged for every computer their brainchild worm infected and every business affected. That’s 15 million. Here’s my list of charges:
- Felony Vandalism: You broke my stuff for fun. Under the Ohio Revised Code, you could be looking at two years hard time.
- Burglary: You entered my space with malicious intent. Add a maximum 10 years.
- Kidnapping: You barred me from getting help. Ten more years.
- Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO statute): You did all of this in collusion with others. That can increase your prison time exponentially. Now you’re really screwed.
Following my personal sentencing guidelines, the Conficker creator would be handed a concurrent sentence of 22 years for each of the 15 million computers affected as of January. That’s 330 million years behind bars. As one of the victims, I suppose I’d be satisfied with that.
Meanwhile, life goes on, or more accurately, reverts to a simpler, less productive time. I’ve been using pens and pencils. I’m looking through my stacks of business cards for phone numbers. I’ve even been reduced to using a typewriter (I found one) while my computer is in IT triage.
Once my computer is up and running, one of my first stops will be Facebook. I need to make some more really good friends among IT professionals who can help me keep this from happening again.
E-mail columnist Jim Harpen at email@example.com.