Virus-Hunting Knoppix Gives Windows Machines the Once Over

Windows virus worries? Boot into a CD-based Linux distribution and nuke the viruses from Tux: It's the only way to be certain.

By Carla Schroder | Posted Aug 3, 2004
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Before we get into the fun stuff, let's talk a bit about the changed nature of spam and viruses. Organized crime has discovered the wonderful benefits of spam. I'll wager that most spam these days is not about selling products at all, but identity theft. Oh, I imagine that a few legitimate pr0n purveyors are still spamming their wares, but the real money is not in discounted drugs, or super cheap software, or low mortgage rates, or bogus college degrees, or anti-virus software, or online "security audits," or free credit cards, or enhanced body parts, or guaranteed real estate investing, or beat the casinos, or lose weight magically. No, it's all about getting hold of your personal information: name, credit card numbers, Social Security number, date of birth, and anything else they can glom.

In the interests of fairness, and simple security measures, I should point out that it is not Microsoft's fault that the world of full of rotten sociopaths and lazy, careless users.
And of course phishes are spewing forth at an all-time high volume. And why not? They work. Again, the goal is identity theft. This article says spam accounts for 82% of all email volume. And the real story is buried in the second-to-last paragraph:
"Virus writers began teaming up with spammers last year, and so far it's been a dangerous combination. Virus writers send out malicious code that infects computers and opens a back door in the machine. A hacker then can use that back door to remotely control the computer, sending out more viruses, Denial of Service attacks or millions of pieces of spam."

Spam + Virus + Windows = Mass Contagion
Well I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty darned alarming. (Of course you faithful Crossnodes readers knew about this yummy new trend early last year; see Resources.) And the other bit that's important to keep in mind is those are compromised Windows PCs being exploited with ridiculous ease. Not Mac, not OS/2, not Amiga, not Linux, not Unix, not the BSDs, not Solaris or SunOS, not BeOS, not even DOS.

How many owned Windows boxen infest the planet, spewing forth contagion 24x7 on fat cable and DSL pipes? I've seen numbers from 400,000 to millions. Who can say? But we can sure see the results in our inboxes, and the effect on the Internet. How many times has Microsoft promised to make security a priority? Let me count the ways:

I wish I still had those amusing Microsoft press releases going back to 1997, where they solemnly promise to make security a priority. Here is one that promises "state-of-the-art security innovations" for Internet Explorer 4.0. I guess the later versions had other priorities.

In the interests of fairness, and simple security measures, I should point out that it is not Microsoft's fault that the world of full of rotten sociopaths and lazy, careless users. Get a grip, folks - don't use Outlook, Outlook Express, or Internet Explorer; that takes care of 90% of your Windows security problems right there. Use Eudora, Pegasus, the Bat, Opera Mail, or Mozilla Mail. For Web browsers, use Opera, Mozilla, or Netscape. Sheesh, they're free! What's the problem?

Continued on page 2: Using Knoppix to Hunt the Bugs

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