NW-07013-layer 8-macnamara

We’ll get to my brother the ax murderer in a moment. But first, let’s all have a good laugh at the expense of the 409 morons who clicked on this Google ad — out of a quarter of a million individuals given the opportunity:

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Is your PC virus-free?

Get it infected here!

After all, only the dimmest of the dimwitted would purposely subject their PC to the promise of a virus. And quantifying the natural occurrence rate of such losers could be seen as the primary result of this experiment conducted by security researcher Didier Stevens.

It isn’t the only one, however. “I designed my ad to make it suspect, but even then it was accepted by Google without problem, and I got no complaints. And many users clicked on it,” Stevens says. “Now, you may think that they were all stupid Windows users, but there is no way to know what motivated them to click on my ad.”

Exactly. So what was the ad testing — security savvy or lack thereof? That’s certainly the conclusion of choice. But what about curiosity? Who could read such an ad and not be curious as to what it’s all about? Couldn’t it be argued that the 409 who clicked through represent the cream of the crop when it comes to thirst for knowledge?

What about faith in almighty Google? Certainly if Google accepted the ad, these 409 curious souls may have reasoned, there cannot be any earthly reason to eschew clicking through. (That Google accepted the ad, which ran for months, may be the most interesting result of the experiment…certainly the one most worthy of follow-up.) Or does the experiment test the courage of one’s convictions?

Let’s face it, the vast majority of us seeing that ad would presume it to be a joke or a way-out-there advertising gimmick, as opposed to what it claims to be. But how many would display the same resolve to have our instincts proven correct as did our brave 409? And need I remind you that they were indeed proven right?

Who’s laughing now, my friends? Shame on that quarter of a million men and women who saw the ad but possessed neither the curiosity, faith nor courage to act on the most natural of 21st Century human impulses: the urge to click.

And if you’ve read this far it can only be for one reason: my brother the ax murderer. Brian McNamara is his name, and a programmer, not an ax murderer, but he does tell a doozy of a story about having hitchhiked cross-country in his wild-and-crazy younger days, armed not merely with a pair of thumbs and a smile but also a cardboard sign that read: “Ax Murderer” … highly effective, too, he says.

My brother and all the people who gave him rides back then were but trailblazers for the fearless 409 who stared down Didier Stevens’ experimental Google ad and clicked without blinking. Morons? Oh, no, I call them heroes.

Yahoo has something to brag about

Not only has Yahoo’s main Web site not had a single minute of downtime this year, according to Pingdom, an uptime monitoring service, the site has maintained an utterly spotless scorecard since Aug. 25, 2006, when it went off the rails for all of 54 seconds. To find any hiccup longer than a minute, you’re talking about the hour and 19 minute outage of June 7, 2006, when I presume an earthquake rocked the company’s data centre.

How does that stack up against other sites? According to a report by Pingdom, it’s the best among the Internet’s 20 most highly trafficked Web sites, although a number of the Top 20 have logged impressive records of their own.

To access my inbox, the address is buzz@nww.com.

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