Gypsies, tramps and thieves on the Net | india | Hindustan Times
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Gypsies, tramps and thieves on the Net

I love the Internet and information technology, but computer viruses are not my favourite topic. Finding out more about viruses is like visiting the doctor: I would prefer to avoid that.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2009 11:54 IST
N Madhavan

I love the Internet and information technology, but computer viruses are not my favourite topic. Finding out more about viruses is like visiting the doctor: I would prefer to avoid that. But IT health, like your physical counterpart, needs nurturing and caring and sometimes, it pays to talk to those who know a lot about that, even if that sounds a tad depressing.

I had coffee recently with Shantanu Ghosh, vice-president at virus-busting firm Symantec, and the tales he told me gave a structured picture of what every Net user knows in daily experience. From unwanted email called spam, to mails that entice you to click on links to steal your data secretly, cookies that learn about you like secret spies and “bots” (mini software
programmes) that do your computer harm, the Net, it seems, is full of gypsies, tramps and thieves.

Ghosh says things have come a long way from the days when teenagers wrote viruses to show off but in a harmless way.

“Today, the guys who are attacking are doing it for financial reasons, like criminals,” Ghosh says, as he goes on to
describe the underbelly of the Net, bubbling like a seedy port town with specialised rackets that include credit card frauds, identity thefts and targeted attacks to steal you data.

One of Ghosh’s sayings is ringing hard in my ears: “The value of information is more critical than the hardware.”

One friend with the most enviable music collection I have seen has seen his laptop crash out, and we are now trying to help him put Humpty and Dumpty together. And he works for Microsoft in a senior role!

Social networking and MP3 music sites are among sources of trouble and careless habits can cause harm. So what is one to do, apart from buying or subscribing to anti-virus software and making sure your computer is cleaned regularly?

I think it is time to think of the Internet as a lifestyle thing, and like in the case of physical health, try to avoid “lifestyle diseases.” There are dos and don’ts that one must follow for IT health. After being boggled by the Symantec insights, I simply asked Ghosh to write prescriptions that could help the average PC users stay in good health. You can find the piece at the Hindustan Times Website (but of course, http://www.hindustantimes.com) Happy surfing!

Please read: Do’s and don’t for IT and computer security