Congress members frustrated with computer viruses wonder how to protect public

“Members of Congress expressed frustration Wednesday over the exploding problems caused by malicious worms and viruses and asked whether additional laws and criminal prosecutions are necessary to protect the public,” Declan McCullagh for CNET News.com.

McCullagh reports, “Rep. Adam Putnam, the chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees government use of technology, suggested at a hearing that the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI are not doing enough to identify and prosecute those responsible for the havoc caused by viruses such as the MSBlast worm, also known as Blaster and Lovsan.”

“‘There are hundreds of viruses released every year…but you can only recall two arrests, two convictions, two jail times?’ Putnam asked a Justice Department official. ‘Now I ask, ‘What’s the source of the threat? Is it foreign or domestic?’ Well, we really don’t know,'” McCullagh reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Congress should be asking whether homogenous or heterogenous platform environments are a better choice for safety and minimizing disruptions. Congress should also be examining what it is about Windows that makes it susceptible to viruses and worms along with finding and prosecuting virus writers. We would also suggest that Congress examine why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded a five-year, $90 million enterprise agreement to Microsoft Corp to become the department’s primary technology provider (more info) when two weeks later, the same U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Windows was vulnerable to attack (more info).

Readers interesting in offering their suggestions to Rep. Adam Putnam, the chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees government use of technology can send a message to him via his website.

19 Comments

  1. Atomic,

    Is the real source of the threat the ignorant public or the company that preys upon them? And isn’t ignorance and/or preying upon the public’s ignorance a prerequisite for election to Congress?

  2. Prosecution (even execution) has never been enough of a deterrent, especially when the prize for the criminal is national media attention for his actions AND you can get away with it. But it makes for great sound-bites if you’re a politician (too busy licking BG’s bottom for re-election ca$h!).

    I would want a congressional hearing for Bill Gates to explain why ALL of his OSes, designed by hordes of genius programmers, have a seemingly infinite number of security holes and why he wants to monopolize the whole world’s computer systems with it! And if he uses the excuse that Mac OS X would have the same problems, then have his team of thousands of genius programers spend a month trying to hack into a simple Apple server, and bring the results with him to the hearing.

    If every week, someone found a way to break into your bank (without leaving any evidence), would you still keep you valuables there? How many more problems and security breaches will it take before we stop joking about this, and see this as a serious threat to national and international security and communications? This affects ALL of us when 95% of our Macs are routed through Microsoft servers for home and business.

    Prosecuting criminals is a temporary relief (if that) of the symptoms, but doesn’t cure the disease!!

  3. Who are these people anyway? Is this a joke?

    Just call Steve Jobs . . .this is a no ‘brainer’.

    It’s simply amazing – we elected ’em, and even pay them real money, to do absolutley nothing.

  4. Unfortunately they believe it is a computer thing not a Micros**t Windows thing. I do beliebe they have no clue that the problem would be less of as problem with a different OS.

    Heck, I believe if you ask any of them what an OS is their answer would either be “Uhun” or “Windows” (Apart Al Gore who now deals with Steve and Apple on a regular basis”.

    Maybe we should start bombarding the Congressman tryin politely to point out: The problem is not Computer viruses but Windows viruses.
    Other OS like Unix and OS X do not suffer from them and it has nothing to do with visibility. One thing is having to deal with a horde of people able to write a Windows virus and one thing would be to deal with a little bunch capable of *trying* to write a virus for Unix/OS X.

  5. I got a quick response form Mr. Putnam.

    ___________________________________

    Thank you for your recent correspondence concerning cyber security
    issues.
    I appreciate hearing from you.

    The work of the Subcommittee for Technology, Information Policy,
    Intergovernmental Relations and the Census, which I chair, is dedicated
    to securing the computer systems of this nation. During the
    Subcommittee�s September 10th hearing on �Worms and Viruses,� I questioned the witnesses on precisely the points that you raised. I questioned the Department of Justice on their commitment to finding and prosecuting virus writers and reiterated my view that this type of crime is just as serious as traditional, physical world crime. The Department�s witness, John Malcolm, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of the cyber crime division, explained the difficulties faced in these investigations.

    He pointed to the successful prosecution of the author of the Melissa
    virus, and reiterated the Department�s determination to pursue the
    author of the �Blaster� worm. However, the authors of Code Red, NIMDA and Slammer remain free to write even more dangerous worms.

    I asked several witnesses, including Microsoft, about the prevalence of
    worms written for Microsoft operating systems. Many of them pointed
    out that alternative systems, such as Linux, had as many vulnerabilities
    announced over the last year as Microsoft. However, the ubiquity of
    the Microsoft operating system, especially on vulnerable home machines, provides an attractive target for worm and virus writers. Mr. Hale of FedCIRC, the government agency devoted to warning and assisting government agencies with computer security problems, pointed out that the Federal systems had responded well to the emergency. Only about 1,000 machines were infected, due mainly to a well-coordinated effort to secure Federal systems.

    Finally, I, too, am concerned with the proposed architecture of the
    Department of Homeland Security. I intend to air those concerns
    during a hearing in October with the Chief Information Officer of DHS.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to share your views. If you are
    interested in legislation that is pending before Congress, please visit
    my website at [url=http://www.adamputnam.house.gov]http://www.adamputnam.house.gov[/url]

    May God Bless America.

    Sincerely,

    Adam Putnam
    Member of Congress

  6. That was an excellent response, but note that while he mentioned Microsoft’s textbook defense, he made no mention of any comments made by the plethora of experts that refute Microsoft’s blatantly false assertions.

  7. When they catch the dweebs who write this garbage shoot um on the spot. Severe but effective. Think I’ll change my name to “red neck”, but if ya call me red neck I’ll shoot ya.

  8. Galvan,

    I agree with A-Bomb… it is a standard defense to assume that Windows is as secure as any other OS regardless of the number of users. We’ve debated this to death and most will agree that it is BS. You should do a follow up on this issue.

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