Eightball and Thundercloud's RANT

Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
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Pirates Of The Cybersea

We extort, we pilfer, we filch and sack.
Drink up me 'earties, Yo Ho!
Maraud and embezzle and even hijack.
Drink up me 'earties, Yo Ho!

Yo Ho, Yo Ho! A pirate's life for me.
Yo Ho, Yo Ho! A pirate's life for me.

(Yo Ho, Yo Ho 1967 X. Atencio & George Bruns)

I have always liked the "Pirates of the Caribbean". You know the parrots, the eyepatches and pirates sitting 'round drinking rum by the barrel. I know, it's only a movie or is it a ride at Disney World? Or both? Still, when I was young, I could hear the timbers creaking, the sails billowing, and the waves splashing. I basked in that imaginary Caribbean sun and breathed the salty air. I had a great imagination and I imagined I was a little pirate. I wanted an eyepatch too but never got one. Now it seems I was just a crazy kid. If I told you about a hat I used to wear as a young boy, I'd surely be giving away my age. I think I'll keep that a secret.

Anyway, back to the pirates. Little did I know that years later, a brand new breed of pirates would come 'swashbuckling' onto the scene. They don't wear eyepatches (I don't think) and they probably don't have parrots riding on their shoulders. They don't ride the salty swells; they ride the cyber waves. They might drink rum by the barrel although I doubt it. They are more the "pina colada" in-the-tall-frosty-glass-with-the-umbrella-sticking-out-of-it type. I can just see them in their Hawaiian shirts drinking and chortling with glee as they reminisce about the all the hapless people they've duped. Yo Ho! They're partying with money pilfered from poor unsuspecting souls who really believe in a fairy tale called "The Free Lunch". Yes..these are the new pirates. We call them: "The Pirates Of The Cybersea".

Let me digress: Recently, we've been receiving letters from advertising companies who proudly proclaim that their new popups can defeat all of the new popup blockers. They're actually proud of this. They want us to display these new anti-popup blocker popups on our sites. They want to pay us a lot of money to do this. We turned them down. We figure if someone installs a popup blocker, they don't want to see popups. Duh! That seems like a no-brainer. So, why would we want to irritate those who visit our site with these "new generation" popups? Money? What do they take us for? Pirates?

We knew, when we first heard that Windows XP-SP2 was coming, and that its version of Internet Explorer 6 included a built-in popup blocker, programmers would be hard-at-work discovering ways to defeat it. After all, at that point in time, over 95% of the people browsing the Web were using Internet Explorer. It's the "big-target" theory at work. (A theory that Mozilla, Firefox, et. al will soon discover, much to their chagrin, to be more than just a theory).

So, it's only a matter a time before the Internet will be a blinking, bopping, bath of popups, sliders (you know the ones that slide in from the side and cover up what you're reading) and worse. Now that they're about to overcome most of the popup blockers, it is only a matter of time before we see a resurgence of the once ubiquitous and particularly nasty "driveby download". And, this time it may be worse than the first time. Who knows how many computers were trashed by these nefarious downloads? The number of spyware programs installed via this method was astronomical. It may be worse when it comes back around this time because now you have a new group who have, on the advice of "experts", ditched their Internet Explorer browser in favor of Mozilla/Firefox et.al.

Why does this make a difference? Aren't those browsers "more secure"? There is nothing worse than walking around thinking you're protected when you're not. It's like wearing a hard hat made of eggshells or a football helmet made of glass. "What does this have to do with anything?" You're asking yourself. A lot. Here's why.

Those who use Mozilla/Firefox cannot use Windows Update. This is not an intentional barrier erected by Microsoft to prevent those who've chosen to use another browser. It is simply because Mozilla/Firefox do not support "Active-X" the good/bad feature of Internet Explorer that has been exploited ad nauseum in the past. Those who make the switch to Mozilla because someone told them to, will most likely will forget about their Windows Updates. A couple of visits to http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/ a couple of times of seeing this  and they'll forget all about "updates". That will mean their Windows will not be updated and that could spell trouble. And, trust me on this, there will come a day when Mozilla/Firefox will suffer the same woes that Internet Explorer has long suffered. How do I know? Am I clairvoyant? No, but I know the Internet and I know Mozilla/Firefox. I can see where the holes will be found already. In their effort to make a fully-functional replacement for I.E. they've added a features and are allowing others to develop enhancements.They call one type of enhancement "extensions" (really just add-ons). You can install these extensions on its toolbar. Does this sound familiar? So, how long do you think it will be before "Name removed due to threat of lawsuit", Gator, SmileyCentral, eZula, CoolWebSearch, or a bevy of new similar companies find a way to create extensions for these browsers and a way to entice users to install them without raising any immediate alarms? Who knows, it may spawn a host of new spyware companies: More pirates sailing on the cybersea. Yo Ho!

Will this come to pass? I really think so. How will they do this? I don't know. I'm not a hacker. I'm not a programmer. I'm not a pirate on the cybersea. Money is the ultimate motivator for many, and millions of new people experience the Internet for the very first time every day. There are always millions of new "fish" in the cybersea. Many more will make the switch from Internet Explorer to alternative browsers. Many will make the switch not because they want to, but because they've been "advised" to for "security" reasons. But, the false belief that they're somehow invulnerable will make them very easy targets for the pirates of the cybersea. As long as there are pirates, motivated by the huge treasure that they can glean from scumware, we all should sail our ships warily across this vast cybersea.

Personally, I will put my trust in Microsoft and Internet Explorer. I think they'll be able to react and fix "issues" that arise more quickly and more responsibly than a "not-for-profit", loosely-knit group of volunteer programmers. And, before you write and dismiss me as mad, I want to point out one thing: I am not taking anything away from Mozilla/Firefox. It is a great browser and it has many nice features. There is nothing wrong with using it as an alternate browser IF you use it for the right reasons. But, to use it because someone told you it was "safer" or "more secure" are not the right reasons. What is true today will not be true tomorrow. Security and safety on the cybersea are transitory things. They are Illusions, spectres, ghosts. As fleeting as the wind and as certain as the sunrise. For as long as there are pockets to pick, browsers to hijack, and riches to pilfer, there will be security problems and issues regardless what software you use to browse the Web.

Keep your guard up and always be wary, because the pirates of the cybersea are just waiting to loot, ravage, and pilfer. Don't you believe the "experts" who tell you one browser or another is going to keep you safe from the pirates. Temporarily? Maybe. But not for very long.

Have fun, use your head, and above all, use common sense. There's no question: They're out there. You can almost hear them singing..."Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me!".

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