The Real Hacker Damage

Like any good computer Samaritan I do all I can to avoid having my computer taken over and used in denial of service attack or to send volumes of spam messages on behalf of those malicious people who benefit from both of these activities.

I think I am well protected. My corporate virus scanner catches e-mail threats such as executable files sent via e-mail that could cause damage if clicked on. I have an anti-spyware program that updates regularly and scans constantly. I occasionally run anti-adware programs to stop malicious programs from monitoring websites I visit and possibly steal passwords I type in.

I also subscribe to the Microsoft Windows Update program and every night my computer checks for updates and installs them automatically.

In addition I scan through volumes of e-mail, the majority of which is spam and malicious content designed to steal passwords and/or my identity.

If all this wasn’t enough of a productivity drain, I have noticed a new and more annoying problem that is zapping corporate productivity. Often when I come to work in the morning my computer has automatically rebooted after a Windows Update of high priority was installed on my computer.

The problem is that I often leave documents open on my desktop with the intent of getting to them later. Perhaps later in the day or the next day. I don’t always keep a record of these documents and if the thing I am working on is not critical I don’t even save it as my office doesn’t lose power often enough for me to worry about it.

Lately the Microsoft Windows Update program has taken control of my computer and rebooted it at least a few time in the past few months. TMCnet’s webmaster Robert Hashemian has also mentioned to me the same thing has happened to him.

This leads one to wonder how much productivity damage is really being done by malicious programs and the people who invent and intentionally propagate them. The soft loss of productivity — thousands or hundreds of thousands of people losing their work is possibly as bad as getting a virus in the first place. One hopes stories like this help the powers that be build better operating systems that aren’t as vulnerable to attack in the first place.

When trying to ascertain the true value of malicious programs one needs to make sure to count the soft losses as well as the more easily trackable ones.

  • Dan York
    January 10, 2006 at 8:56 am

    Rich,
    I know the pain all too well! Back in August I was severely burned by the automatic reboot:
    http://blog.danyork.com/102384.html
    I lost a great amount of work that was in progress.
    As I wrote there, I’ve gone and changed my “Automatic Updates” setting to “Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them.” This at least provides you with the control over when to reboot the system. It will nag you with a popup every five minutes or so when a reboot is required, so it’s pretty effective (by being annoying) in getting you to do it. You do, of course, run the risk of having your system compromised in the interim, though. It’s a tough call. I agree, though, that these productivity losses are hard to capture – yet they are indeed real costs.
    Regards,
    Dan

  • Tom Keating
    January 10, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Or you can simply install this Registry hack which will still auto-download and install the patches but not nag you to reboot.
    http://blogs.msdn.com/tim_rains/archive/2004/11/15/257877.aspx

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