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Beating Back The Spyrus Blooms

Posted by n_alex on January 14, 2005 at 8:10 AM PST

Every day for the last several weeks, I have gotten up, trudged through subzero temperatures that can literally freeze your eyelids shut, sat down at my desk in an old NASA-funded research building, and infected Windows XP machines with a wide variety of spyware, viruses, worms, IRC bots, toolbars, adware, and other assorted barnacles of the electromechanical world.

Barnacles, Spyruses, we have many names for them here. But they are the enemy. We've built zoo machines and read-only arks of all the worst nasties to cross our nets in the last six months. Blaster. Welchia. Netsky. Gaobot, and all its cunning variants. Internet optimizer, CoolWebSearch, you name it. We have 5,000 resident users in one great big network corral, with almost unrestricted access to the external net. They function like fishing nets, bringing us all the worst computer infections the world has to offer. Their job is to play, and learn. Our job is to protect them from each other, and the world from them.

We fight the bots, and we win. Time and again. I've been training a team of about 25 people, to be able to sit down with any Windows XP machine, and disinfect it--completely--in an hour, when a compromised or clueless Symantec would still be wandering blind through the System32 directory, and Ad-Aware would still be on-deck.

The best part, in my mind, about my place here, is that the people on my team aren't former virus writers or cybercriminals. They're honest, bright students who take more satisfaction in reinforcing windows than in breaking them.

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