TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Jul 90 Letters
Volume Number:6
Issue Number:7
Column Tag:Letters

Virus Defense

By Kirk Chase, Editor, MacTutor

Viruses, Worms, And Trojan Horses

Steve Seaquist

3126 Brinkley Road, #204

Temple Hills, MD 20748-6308

For those who don’t know who I am, I wrote SecurityPatrol, which was published in the February 1989 issue. I’m writing in response to the April 1990 issue’s Mousehole report of the first two destructive Mac programs, which were of the trojan horse and time bomb types.

In discussing the general topic of defense, typical success stories have involved many simple defenses that overlap and reinforce one another, so that if one subsystem temporarily breaks down, another can take up the slack until total defenses can be shored up. That’s where we’re heading now, with many tools, of different types, from different sources. There will soon be so many tools that no new virus, worm, trojan horse or whatever can be programmed to evade them all. Ours is becoming an environment both sensitive and hostile to destructive software. We can now, if we so choose, swarm like bees (or Maryland police cars, an awesome sight to behold) around new releases of harmful software, isolate their spread and track them back to their source.

What we need now are our own success stories. We need to catch people with unbroken threads of evidence that lead to convictions in court. We need to make our environment even more sensitive and even more hostile to destructive software. We need to force anyone who contemplates releasing destruction into our world to think long and hard on the question: “Just how certain am I that I won’t get caught?”

To start working toward our own success stories, we need to start doing three things we haven’t been doing, namely: audit-trails, cooperation among anti-virus software developers and glorifying the hero:

Audit-Trails

By audit-trails, I mean the unbroken threads of evidence that lead to convictions in court. Keeping an audit-trail takes the most work, by far, from everyone. It means keeping track of where everything came from: every disk, every document, every application, every system file. (Yes, yes, every disk and document too.) It means keeping track of people: who they say they are, what they look like (height, weight, pitch of voice, color of eyes, race, identifying marks and scars, etc), where and when you met them, what information they used to convince you they were who they said they were, whether or not they could have overheard that information, etc. They don’t have to be extensive notes, but take notes. And if you run a BBS, multiply everything I just said times the number of users on your system.

This may sound like too much work, but consider your own liability: If someone gave you an application program, and you gave it to someone else, and it turned out to contain the worse virus ever released, and they traced it back to you, how much could you tell them about the person who gave it to you? Will they believe you? It’s for your own protection too. In situations of mutual defense, it often makes little sense to distinguish between self-defense and defense of others.

So if a guy you don’t know very well offers you a disk, the very least you should do is ask to see some photo-id and take down the numbers. If this provokes a fearful reply “What do you want to see that for?”, just tell the truth “I like to keep a record of where I get everything, just in case it turns out to contain a virus or something.” If he balks, it’s probably because he hasn’t been keeping records himself and has just realized with force his own precarious legal position. (Don’t be surprised to see his face go pale.) Be compassionate, calm his fears that people are going to be out to get him and explain the need for group solidarity in fighting this war. You’ve just encouraged another citizen to keep records of everyone and everything, and you’re probably better off not accepting anything from him till he does anyway.

Cooperation Among Anti-Virus Developers

While I was finishing up SecurityPatrol for publication, some new viruses were discovered that I had not “contracted”. Since I needed to have an actual copy of a virus in order to fingerprint it (see the MacTutor article), I talked to various companies that were working on anti-virus software. I explained a secure arrangement that would allow them to send the viruses safely through MacTutor or the Washington Apple Pi users group. If I listened with my ears, I heard them say “Our lawyers have advised us we would be in a dangerous legal position if we sent anyone a virus.”. But if I listened with my heart and to the tones of their voices, I got the very strong feeling that they didn’t want to help out a magazine article that might undercut their own future profits.

The real reasons behind their non-cooperation are irrelevant. The key points are that non-cooperation exists and that it slows the progress of every one of the commercial product developers. Even if Apple were to work out a virus distribution system to get out copies of newer viruses to developers, there’s still the problem of analysis. What one of them knows about a new virus, they all should know, so that no one’s product is caught by surprise. In other words, we should be fighting the enemy, not one another.

Please understand, I’m not a mawkish ivory-tower-dwelling sophomore who thinks profit is a dirty word. Far from it. Profit is an excellent motive to dedicate people to a task, and security is a task to which I’d like to see many more people dedicate themselves. But I also believe security is a special case that threatens everyone’s profit, and as such, deserves special treatment. The survival of an anti-virus product should be based on approach, cost, ease-of-use, interface, performance, stability, support, upgrades to deal with new viruses, etc, but not on secrecy. Vermin hide in the dark, not in the sunlight.

I might add that Mainstay was the only group that gave me any help to speak of. If you’re undecided among anti-virus products, I think they should be rewarded for their attitude. But no one provided copies of the newer viruses.

As a result, I was unable to finish SecurityPatrol with defenses against the newer viruses in time for publication. My hope was then, as it is now, that MacTutor readers would, when they encountered a new virus, analyze whether its fingerprints vary according to variable data stored in the virus, fingerprint it over its invariant parts and mail the code and fingerprint numbers to MacTutor so that everyone would benefit from their analysis. That would extend cooperation throughout the developer community.

Glorifying the Hero

You can’t blame the press for needing to find something to write about. That’s the situation they’re in. Many virus writers are unconsciously eager to become infamous for the number of people they’ve hurt or angered, and when caught, freely provide interviews citing grandiose motivations, intended to show that they were actually doing the community a service (to get Apple to clean up its act on security, for example). The press should see through such claims which endanger the foundations of their own freedoms:

The 1st Amendment protects the idea by protecting its author. It does not confer unlimited mode of expression. If you express anger in words, in print or in paint on a canvas you bought, you are protected by the 1st Amendment. But if you express anger with fists or bullets, or in paint on the side of someone else’s building, even a government building, you are not. (If virus writers want Apple to clean up their act on security, they should say so, and how to do so, in print, or they should publish application programs that shore up the defenses. Those modes of expression are protected by the 1st Amendment. And in the free exchange of ideas, the stronger ones, possibly their own, will win out.)

We are partly to blame for the press having nothing to write about except bad news. When someone does something good, we don’t issue a press release about it. In effect, we don’t give them anything to write about except bad news. The only time anyone ever issues a good news press release, it’s a vendor touting a new product. (The press is loathe to provide free publicity; vendors are normally expected to pay for publicity.)

But make no mistake. The press is just as eager to print good news if they think it’ll sell, and news about viruses sells big. If you figure out exactly how a virus works or can be detected, produce a detailed description and send it in to a Mac magazine. (MacWEEK is a timely place for such info, and they helped me find people who knew about viruses, so they deserve to be rewarded.) That, friend, is a press release, and it’ll be your name that’ll be printed along with the description, not the name of the person who wrote the virus. You’re the hero, and you deserve recognition for your efforts. If you figure out how to modify SecurityPatrol to detect it, send in the code and fingerprints to MacTutor, and it’ll be your name again.

The popular press also has trouble distinguishing gifted programmers. Their only measures are how many people were affected and how severely. They don’t know that most viruses are written by junior and mid-level programmers who wish to be regarded as senior simply because they’ve figured out how to read Inside Macintosh and Tech Notes. But true seniority in programming reveals itself in the thoughtfulness with which flexible human needs are matched to inflexible machine realities. It’s a kind of maturity that comes from working on many projects, making many people happy and being happy that you made them happy. In other words, senior programmers have a joy of relating to people that virus writers know nothing about. And the popular press doesn’t know it either.

So at the same time as you provide your analysis of the new virus, be sure to point out what a simpleton its programmer was for understanding only the computer, and not even very well. If the virus does something particularly mindless, such as an INIT that installs itself into every file, not just INIT files, say so. If it skips a CODE resource-id number because it lost track of its own counter, say so. If it’s exactly the same as another virus except for a minor variation, say so. And always, always, always point out that its author isn’t fit to lick the dog poop off the boots of the programmers whose programs it infects. Maybe by the time its author is revealed, the press will be less inclined to talk about him as if he’s a genius or to analyze his ideas and motivations in depth as if there’s something there profound to be found.

I sincerely believe that, by shining bright light on all areas of Mac security, opening our eyes wide and paying very close attention to detail, we will create a place where vermin will have no place to hide. Please help.

More on Modula-2

Allen Stenger

Gardena, CA

This letter summarizes my experience with Modula-2 compilers on the Macintosh; it responds to the letter from Thorsten Kramp in the April 1990 MacTutor.

I have used both the SemperSoft compiler and the Metrowerks standalone (PSE) system. The SemperSoft compiler is well-integrated into the MPW environment. It produces good code and runs fairly quickly. (Is SemperSoft still in business? They don’t advertise in MacTutor anymore, and APDA no longer carries the compiler.)

The Metrowerks standalone system is also fairly fast, but produces very peculiar-looking code. Apparently each procedure is called through some sort of jump table. Also the linked applications are very large (100K for a 20-line program); most of this seems to be library routines. There are no MacsBug symbols. The Metrowerks system comes with a very nice symbolic debugger, which allows breakpoints to be set and shows formatted dumps of Macintosh structures. It also allows faster turnaround than the SemperSoft system (the Metrowerks compiler itself is about half as fast, but the link takes almost no time, compared to SemperSoft where you have to go through the slow MPW linker). The SemperSoft system has a few obscure bugs; the Metrowerks system has a few less-obscure bugs. The most annoying Metrowerks bug was that the very nice symbolic debugger refused to work on the program where I really needed it (it turned out that the debugger doesn’t like anchored variables).

For learning and miscellaneous fooling around (which seems to be Mr. Kramp’s need) the Metrowerks system seems to be the better choice. Its bulky object code makes it less attractive than the SemperSoft system for application development.

Metrowerks also makes an MPW version. In addition TML Systems is reported to sell a Modula-2 system. But I have not had experience with any of these, nor have I heard any reports on them.

World Wide Developers Note

Kirk Chase

MacTutor

Just a short note about the World Wide Developer's Conference in San Jose last May. Practically every session the speaker was asking for input from us developers. Apple is making some far reaching changes in the future. Now is a good time to send some feedback through AppleLink.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Bookends 13.2.6 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more
BusyContacts 1.4.0 - Fast, efficient con...
BusyContacts is a contact manager for OS X that makes creating, finding, and managing contacts faster and more efficient. It brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing... Read more
Chromium 77.0.3865.75 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 77.0.3865.75: A list of changes is available... Read more
DiskCatalogMaker 7.5.5 - Catalog your di...
DiskCatalogMaker is a simple disk management tool which catalogs disks. Simple, light-weight, and fast Finder-like intuitive look and feel Super-fast search algorithm Can compress catalog data for... Read more
Alfred 4.0.4 - Quick launcher for apps a...
Alfred is an award-winning productivity application for OS X. Alfred saves you time when you search for files online or on your Mac. Be more productive with hotkeys, keywords, and file actions at... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 10.45 - File, pho...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
iFinance 4.5.11 - Comprehensively manage...
iFinance allows you to keep track of your income and spending -- from your lunchbreak coffee to your new car -- in the most convenient and fastest way. Clearly arranged transaction lists of all your... Read more
OmniGraffle Pro 7.11.3 - Create diagrams...
OmniGraffle Pro helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use... Read more
BBEdit 12.6.7 - Powerful text and HTML e...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
OmniGraffle 7.11.3 - Create diagrams, fl...
OmniGraffle helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use Graffle to... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special...
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special Delivery is a terrifying new nightmare from developer Illumix. Last week, FNAF fans were sent into a frenzy by a short teaser for what we now know to be Special Delivery. Those in the comments were quick to... | Read more »
Rush Rally 3's new live events are...
Last week, Rush Rally 3 got updated with live events, and it’s one of the best things to happen to racing games on mobile. Prior to this update, the game already had multiplayer, but live events are more convenient in the sense that it’s somewhat... | Read more »
Why your free-to-play racer sucks
It’s been this way for a while now, but playing Hot Wheels Infinite Loop really highlights a big issue with free-to-play mobile racing games: They suck. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying going for realism, cart racing, or arcade nonsense, they’re... | Read more »
Steam Link Spotlight - The Banner Saga 3
Steam Link Spotlight is a new feature where we take a look at PC games that play exceptionally well using the Steam Link app. Our last entry talked about Terry Cavanaugh’s incredible Dicey Dungeons. Read about how it’s a great mobile experience... | Read more »
PSA: GRIS has some issues
You may or may not have seen that Devolver Digital just released GRIS on the App Store, but we wanted to do a quick public service announcement to say that you might not want to hop on buying it just yet. The puzzle platformer has come to small... | Read more »
Explore the world around you in new matc...
Got a hankering for a fresh-feeling Match-3 puzzle game that offers a unique twist? You might find exactly what you’re looking for with What a Wonderful World, a new spin on the classic mobile genre which merges entertaining puzzles with global... | Read more »
Combo Quest (Games)
Combo Quest 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Combo Quest is an epic, time tap role-playing adventure. In this unique masterpiece, you are a knight on a heroic quest to retrieve... | Read more »
Hero Emblems (Games)
Hero Emblems 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** 25% OFF for a limited time to celebrate the release ** ** Note for iPhone 6 user: If it doesn't run fullscreen on your device... | Read more »
Puzzle Blitz (Games)
Puzzle Blitz 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Puzzle Blitz is a frantic puzzle solving race against the clock! Solve as many puzzles as you can, before time runs out! You have... | Read more »
Sky Patrol (Games)
Sky Patrol 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: 'Strategic Twist On The Classic Shooter Genre' - Indie Game Mag... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Sunday Sale! 2019 27″ 5K 6-Core iMacs for $20...
B&H Photo has the new 2019 27″ 5K 6-Core iMacs on stock today and on sale for up to $250 off Apple’s MSRP. Overnight shipping is free to many locations in the US. These are the same iMacs sold by... Read more
Weekend Sale! 2019 13″ MacBook Airs for $200...
Amazon has new 2019 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for $200 off Apple’s MSRP, with prices starting at $899, each including free shipping. Be sure to select Amazon as the seller during checkout, rather than... Read more
2019 15″ MacBook Pros now on sale for $350-$4...
B&H Photo has Apple’s 2019 15″ 6-Core and 8-Core MacBook Pros on sale today for $350-$400 off MSRP, starting at $2049, with free overnight shipping available to many addresses in the US: – 2019... Read more
Buy one Apple Watch Series 5 at Verizon, get...
Buy one Apple Watch Series 5 at Verizon, and get a second Watch for 50% off. Plus save $10 on your first month of service. The fine print: “Buy Apple Watch, get another up to 50% off on us. Plus $10... Read more
Sprint offers 64GB iPhone 11 for free to new...
Sprint will include the 64GB iPhone 11 for free for new customers with an eligible trade-in in of the iPhone 7 or newer through September 19, 2019. The fine print: “iPhone 11 64GB $0/mo. iPhone 11... Read more
Verizon offers new iPhone 11 models for up to...
Verizon is offering Apple’s new iPhone 11 models for $500 off MSRP to new customers with an eligible trade-in (see list below). Discount is applied via monthly bill credits over 24 months. Verizon is... Read more
AT&T offers free $300 reward card + free...
AT&T Wireless will include a second free 64GB iPhone 11 with the purchase of one eligible iPhone at full price. They will also include a free $300 rewards card. The fine print: “Buy an elig.... Read more
US Cellular offers 64GB iPhone 11 for free to...
US Cellular is offering the base 64GB iPhone 11 for free for new customers. Qualified trade-in of iPhone 7 or higher required (or a number of Android phones). Discounts are applied via monthly bill... Read more
New 7th generation 10.2″ 128GB iPads availabl...
Amazon is accepting preorders for Apple’s new 7th generation 10.2″ 128GB iPads for $399.99 each, or $30 off Apple’s MSRP for this model. Shipping is free: – 10.2″ 128GB WiFi iPad Space Gray: $399.99... Read more
Sprint has the new 7th Generation iPad on sal...
Sprint has the new 2019 7th Generation 32GB WiFi + Cellular iPad available starting at only $99.99 from 9/12/19 to 10/3/19. Their price is a $360 savings over Apple’s standard MSRP. See the deal live... Read more

Jobs Board

Geek Squad *Apple* Master Consultation Agen...
**732131BR** **Job Title:** Geek Squad Apple Master Consultation Agent **Job Category:** Services/Installation/Repair **Location Number:** 000399-Wausau-Store **Job Read more
*Apple* Mobility Pro - Best Buy (United Stat...
**723452BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Pro **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 001194-Greeley-Store **Job Description:** At Best Buy, our Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**732027BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 002507-Alexandria-Store **Job Description:** The Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**727669BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Location Number:** 000890-Buckhead-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Read more
Geek Squad *Apple* Master Consultation Agen...
**731944BR** **Job Title:** Geek Squad Apple Master Consultation Agent **Job Category:** Services/Installation/Repair **Location Number:** 001130-Nashville Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.