SHCC WYSIWYG Article from September 2000

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This article was written by Rick Schummer, the club secretary, as an entry in "From the Secretary's Notebook".  The opinions expressed are Mr. Schummer's, and do not necessarily express the views of the club.  This article appeared in the September 2000 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Viruses and the PC Mike Debacle

by Rick Schummer

Sickos that create email viruses should be taken to the nearest jail and left to rot. It has been a couple of months since the lovely ILOVEYOU virus and the different strains, but I need to address one bit of fallout from this tragedy.

I guess I was in the minority of the world and was fortunate enough to have avoided this aggravation/pain. I guess I keep the right friends, or nobody cares to have my email address in their address book <g>.

This virus was cruel. Initial reports mentioned some MP3 and JPG files being erased. This could be a killer for all those who have downloaded hundreds of music files. But the brutality of this virus was much deeper. It corrupted SCT files which are script files for the Windows OS, and worse, form memo files (source code for screens) for Visual FoxPro developers. One such developer in my office contracted it and we had to reformat his computer, it was that deep. I heard from several people that did the same thing. Hours and hours of lost time. This is why the losers that write these little evil programs should be locked up for a very long time.

There are other losers as well. Mike Wendlend, of PC Mike fame, hosts a weekend show on a local talk radio station (WXYT), and is a technology reporter on news radio (WWJ) here in Detroit. He lead his listeners down the severe path on solving the email virus problem. He compromised common sense and took the hype road to get some ratings. Unfortunately he falls into the stereotypical broadcast journalism role of hype before common sense. Mike told PC users to remove/disable the Windows Scripting Host from their PC. That was *the* fix to solve the terrible loophole in Outlook. He also said that everyone should do this, regardless of whether they used Outlook or not. He noted this on his radio show and on his web site. Granted, this will work, but so will the better advice to never open a file that is attached to a email message. He only mentions this in passing later, and only on his website.

He feels that the Windows Scripting Host should be removed from the Windows Operating System. Nowhere did he mention the side effects of disabling Windows Scripting Host. As a software developer, I have used this built-in native tool to Windows for my customers, and effectively he was telling them to break my applications without informing them of the ramifications. Purely irresponsible! For some reason, likely his visibility on the radio and news media, people take his word as gospel. This is a big responsibility, and I think he stepped over the line once again. This is not the first time I have had to convince people that PC Mike's advice is totally wrong, flawed, or out of line. While we are at it, maybe we should ban BAT files for all the world's DOS/Windows users. It just so happens that DOS is on all PCs and a BAT file could be more destructive than the brutal love bug. Same technique using DELTREE or FORMAT command in a BAT, and people are in a world of hurt.

I emailed PC Mike my feelings on this subject, and a few questions. As they say in the news business, he did not return our inquires. He has refused to have me on his radio program in the past when I wanted to correct a number of big errors he has spoken. Why is he so afraid of getting correct information to his listeners?

Two lessons to be learned from this commentary...

The first is to never, never, never open any attachment to your email. Even from a trusted source. As the ILOVEYOU and Melissa viruses have proven, they can come from people you likely know.

The second lesson to learn, do your homework. Ask the advice of several so-called gurus. Research and read on every topic. Get both sides of the story. In this case, the so-called guru is not a guru at all.

End of Article

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