First Kill the Tech Writers

Shakespeare was wrong. Forget killing the lawyers, killing off a few tech writers is probably a better idea.

Consider this jumbled of nonsense from the BBC about an amorphous hunk of malware out for the Mac.

Malicious worm aims to bite Apple

Mac users are being warned to be on the lookout for what is being called one of the first viruses for Apple computers.

What a second. The headline calls it a worm now the body calls it a virus. The two are quite different. And it is not a distinction without a difference. The way we combat these things changes according to what the malware does. -Just like in real life. – You wouldn’t want a physician to prescribe antibiotics for a human virus.

OK I’ll give him a break, the editor probably wrote a poor headline, certainly the tech writer knows better… Right?

The malicious program, known as Leap-A, tries to spread via Apple’s iChat instant messaging program. [No, it doesn’t more later -ED]

The worm disguises itself as images of Apple’s forthcoming version of its operating system, called Leopard, and plunders buddy lists if installed.

Now, it’s a virus again!

Security firms said Leap-A was not widespread and was unlikely to catch out many Apple users.

No threat

The malicious program tries to trick users into installing it and does not exploit any security holes in Apple’s OS X operating system.

If it tries to trick a user into doing something stupid and does not exploit a security hole (and self-propagate) it is NEITHER a worm NOR a virus, it is a Trojan horse.

Yet if you read the whole rest of the article, the author uses the terms interchangably and even gives us tortured paragraphs like this one:

The worm is interesting as it is one of the few written for Apple computers. The vast majority of viruses are written to attack Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

My point, goes to the heart of the point of this story. This Trojan spreads NOT because it is self-replicating. This Trojan spreads because it relies on users doing stupid things. (several stupid things in a row actually) But how can we blame the users for their ignorance when the “experts” writing these stories are clueless themselves?

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(Note: I picked on the BBC but you can read a dozen stories written just as poorly. Even /. got it wrong at first. At least they have an excuse that they were on the story early and updated.)

And comments will be closing in 5… 4… 3.. 2…

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24 Comments

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