"I'm not dead yet!"
Yes, despite the fact that I haven't written anything in this blog for a couple of months, I'd not dead yet. I feel happy! I feel like - dancing!
Besides, I haven't been silent. Stage Left, the blog from the other half of my brain, has been pretty lively lately because of all the shows I reviewed in June. And I'm working on a new op-ed piece for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It'll be published on July 8th and I'll have a link to it here by the 9tth or thereabouts. My May musings for that publication can be found here. There's a March column as well, but it has been moved to their paid archives. Killjoys.
Still, the main reason there's been nothing here for a while is that there's been so much technology news lately that it's hard to keep up: Apple's iPhone and new MacBook Pros, Microsoft's coffee table computer (which looks suspiciously like the open-source ReacTable, not that I'm suggesting anything) and, of course, the daily flood of malware news.
I'll leave comments on the latest Bright Spaklies for another column. This time I want to expand on some advice from my ten-point Internet safety check. At the time, I advised you to "think before you click" on a link in an e-mail or at a web site. The idea was to avoid sites that were clearly dangerous or which might mimic legitimate sites.
Now, it seems, things have got even more complicated. According to a June 18th article in Computerworld a "phenomenal" number of web sites - mostly in Italy, so far - have been compromised by a gang using a Russian-made exploit kit called MPack. The hacked sites are used to download malware - mostly keyloggers, designed to grab user names and passwords - to unprotected computers that visit these otherwise legitimate web sites.
This is bad news, to say the least. It means that even if you're careful to avoid the dark end of the virtual street, you can still get mugged. Trend Micro network architect Paul Ferguson, quoted in the Computerworld article, puts it this way: "The usual advice we give, 'Avoid the bad neighborhoods of the Web,' just doesn't hold water anymore. Everywhere could be a bad neighborhood now."
Could be worse, of course. If you followed my advice back in February and installed multiple anti-virus and anti-spyware products, you're still likely to be protected from hacked sites. But this does ratchet up the paranoia level and raises an unpleasant question: just how risky does doing business on the Internet have to become before large numbers of computer owners decide it's not worth the trouble? And what will the economic impact be if that happens?