PACKET RAT: Rat dodges the Three Bears'baby, market, virus

Michael J. Bechetti

'Again! Bear!' shouted the Rat's 20-month-old daughter as her 'Bear in the Big Blue House' DVD ended for the 20th time of the day.

'Bear take nap,' said Father Rat, turning off the television. It was Sunday and he was on daddy duty, but he'd already had enough of bears of all sorts that week, the dancing, singing Muppet variety included.

The bears on Wall Street don't give the Rat the heebie-jeebies much anymore. He's already lost whatever portion of his shirt was tied to the stock market. But the bipolar nature of the market keeps his spouse stressed out enough to plan re-entry into the work force. And that translates into even more exposure to 'Bear in the Big Blue House' in the Rat's future.

'Day care is expensive,' Mrs. Rat said. 'Can't you do some flex time to cover home base a little more?'

Well, the Rat doesn't mind hiding out at home from another bear that has been stalking him for the past few weeks.

While the Homeland Security Department bill languishes in the Senate, he has more immediate defense issues to deal with'namely, the rampant Bugbear virus.

'Yet another security breach brought to you by Microsoft Corp.,' the wirebiter whined, wading through trouble tickets. 'Thank you, Mr. Gates, for bundling Internet Explorer into the operating system.'

Because Bugbear exploits Internet Explorer, and because many e-mail programs including Microsoft Outlook use Explorer to render Web pages, this particular virus has drawn more of the Rat's attention'and ire'than usual.

Even though it attacks only unpatched versions of Explorer 5.5'and the Rat's system management tools have rolled out patches for Explorer and nearly every other Windows component more times than he can remember'it still has brought a flood of e-mails from less vigilant networks.

There's no better way to discover the gaps in system update scripts than through a nasty Bugbear infection.

Fortunately, the Rat's peers at the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center and the General Services Administration's Federal Computer Incident Response Center aren't waiting for the Senate to get around to homeland security before they start collaborating on Bugbear and its buddies.

And, in view of the snags the homeland security bill is hitting, these informal meetings might have to stay informal a bit longer. The groups are already planning their collaboration in advance of any Senate action, meeting as often as weekly.

'It's about time we had some mutual aid,' the whiskered one told a colleague. 'A little anarchy can be a good thing in government.'

There's only one thing that bugs the Bear, er, Rat, about this. Nobody's invited him to any of the meetings.

The cyberrodent snapped out of his ruminations as a juice cup hit him squarely between the eyes.

'More Bear House,' cooed his daughter. She snatched the DVD remote from his hands and resumed her adoration of the seven-foot ursine puppet.

'Thank you, Bear,' the Rat sighed.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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