If you thought it was cold in the UK this winter you should have been in Arlington, Virginia home to this yearis NCSA International Virus Prevention Conference (IVPC) in January. Temperatures plummeted with a piercing windchill to -40 degrees. Believe us that's cold.
All the major anti-virus companies were there including Dr Solomon's, Symantec (Norton), F-Prot, Cheyenne, IBM and McAfee.
One of the unusual things about the anti-virus industry is just how much co-operation there is between the different vendors - or at least between the technical people who work for the different vendors. Whereas the marketing people at different anti-virus companies rarely see eye-to-eye, many of the anti-virus programmers are good friends with one another and share information "for the greater good" of the computer community.
One way in which this occurs is via an informal organisation called the Computer Anti-Virus Research Organisation (CARO) .The organisation includes some of the world's leading anti-virus developers such as Dmitry Gryaznov, Alan Solomon and Vesselin Bontchev. The group is small and most of the leading anti-virus companies have a member of CARO working for them.
One of the highlights of the conference was a paper given by Microsoft about macro viruses. Considering Microsoft's bad experiences with macro viruses in the past there was some speculation that someone might not turn up, but to his considerable credit Tim Lebel of Microsoft showed up and spoke at length about the problems macro viruses caused. Lebel revealed that Excel viruses may cause more of a problem in the future than the current flood of Word-based viruses. According to Microsoft statistics, over 20% of all spreadsheets have macros attached to them, making the opportunity for spread even greater.
Other papers dealt with the latest menaces threatening computer users, and looked ahead at what future developments in virus-writing and anti-virus technologies may bring. Graham Cluley from Dr Solomon's spoke about the increased prevalence of hoax viruses such as Good Times, Irina, and Deeyenda. He proposed that maybe we should consider hoax viruses to be more of a problem than real viruses - after all anti-virus software can't stop hoaxes from spreading and can't clean hoaxes up.
As yet no company has come up with a solution to the virus hoax problem.
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