Ann Arbor Business to Business
Small Business and the Internet

Looking Back

January 2005

By Mike Gould

"...The mists of time are beginning to clear... I see...things ...in the year ahead..."

Or so the Right Rear Reverend Sri Swami Tsunami Nextwavepaddlesloshwebber wrote last year at this time. I was suffering from an overdose of eggnog and little chocolate Santas at the time, so I asked Swami Tsunami to fire up Adobe Seer Sucker 2.3 and make some predictions for 2004. And so he did - how did he do? Here's a look back at a look forward:

"A major new security flaw will be found in Windows" This was a gimme of the fish, barrel, and smoking gun variety. Lessee, where to start? Well, I guess the many Internet Explorer (IE) vulnerabilities would do. Malefactors have figured out ways to attack Windows systems via websites; so much so that many are calling for the immediate dropping of IE at their universities and businesses. This from Information Week (12/13/04):

Microsoft's Internet Explorer has finally incurred the most severe security warning from a user to date: Penn State University's Information Technology Services has urged 80,000 students and staff not to use it. CERT, the Computer Emergency Response Team at Carnegie Mellon, said much the same thing, but that was before the late-summer release of Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 2, which included an update to IE 6. CERT changed its tune in an Aug. 30 bulletin, telling readers that SP2 "significantly improves your computer's defenses against attacks and vulnerabilities."

I wrote about this back in August: http://www.mondodyne.com/b2b/smbiznet.78.shtml. 'Nuff said.

Swami score: 10

"Viruses will continue to plague Windows users, in the form of a new class of viral nastiness that will evidence a delayed-reaction effect. The viruses will "incubate" in home and business PCs, erupting en masse on a specific day. Terrorists will be implicated. Current anti-virus measures will prove to be ineffective. Mac and Linux users will be unaffected."

Well, the ol' swami got it mostly right, except the part about terrorists and specific day attacks. A quick visit to CERT (http://www.us-cert.gov/current/current_activity.html) reveals continuing attacks from W32/Sober, W32/MyDoom, and a variety of others. I have read reports that an un-patched Windows computer, placed directly onto the Internet via a cable modem, has about 20 minutes before it is hacked and turned into a virus and spam-spewing zombiebot. For those of you with new Windows computers and broadband connections, please install the latest patches and anti-virus updates, preferably before you plug into the 'net. All you zombies out there are really annoying the rest of us.

Swami score: 7

"The first Macintosh virus in several decades will appear" Well, almost. Several vulnerabilities were discovered, and most of them were patched. There exists certain software that can take over Macs due to the Unix foundation in the basement of the Mac's Operating System, OS X. If certain software is installed and the user gives explicit permission for certain processes to be run, a hacker can take over a Mac ("Get Root") in much the same way a PC user can be zombified. But this has only been reported sporadically, as it seems to be a payload without a delivery system. And the hoops a user has to jump through to become infected make an outbreak unlikely. Not that we one-button mouse wranglers should be complacent: keep your system updates up-to-date and use anti virus software (also up-to-date) and you should be OK.

Swami score: 8

"Spam will continue to be a problem" Duh. We are now at about 70% of network traffic being spam, largely due to the zombies mentioned above. The government has begun a half-hearted effort to deal with the problem, and several people have gone to jail, but Congress remains as clueless as ever. Your best bet is to sign up with an ISP that provides good filtering, and to install spam filters in whatever email product you use. I use Eudora, and have been pretty happy with that (if "happy" and "spam" can be said to coexist in the same paragraph...).

Swami score: 10

"Hardware Tools and Toys of Tomorrow" "A new digitally-based toy will grab media attention and empty the wallets of computer-users everywhere". Sounds like the iPod to me. The Swami foresaw something a little cheaper, but there is no denying the success of the Apple music machine.

Swami score: 8

"Computers will sell in record numbers" Well, no. From what I've read, the numbers are pretty flat. So flat that IBM is getting out of the PC business. Apple did OK. Please note that I'm not an economist (and I don't play one on MSNBC), so I'm going by what I can find on the Web.

Swami score: 0

"Digital photography becomes the norm" "Unable to transition effectively, Kodak will seek Chapter 11..." Well, no, didn't happen. Kodak is soldiering on, but digital camera sales have eclipsed film sales. I know of very few people who still shoot on film, and no professionals who do.

Swami score: 7

"American Websites will begin to appear in multi-language formats" Nope, hasn't really happened yet.

Swami score: 0

"AOL will continue to lose members" Hard to say, but they did recently start in a massive re-organization, so something is happening. They must be having problems though, as they make it so difficult to quit (or so I have read on the Web). Something that big, dumb, and just plain offensive is bound to topple over sometime, though.

Swami score: 5

"Comcast rates will fall" Nope, they've gone up in many areas. Ann Arbor hasn't seen an increase, but the 'burbs are getting hit. This prediction was based on DSL or satellite service making inroads - didn't happen.

Swami score: 0

Cumulative score: 55% accurate. Hmmm... so much for software cyber-seerage. The proof is in missing some of the big stories of 2004: the growth of Linux, increasing problems with identity theft (Phishing), and the bombshell about IBM leaving the PC business.

As to 2005, who knows? Happy New Year!

The Right Rear Reverend Sri Swami Tsunami Nextwavepaddlesloshwebber was a guru to Mike Gould, who is a mouse wrangler for the U of M, runs MondoDyne Web Works, is a member of Factotem.com, and welcomes comments addressed to mgould@mondodyne.com. Swami Tsunami has been sent back to Frammistan to get his act together.

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