4.6. The Virus Hype
Unfortunately, a backlash has recently started against virus alarmists. Like those who too many times cry "wolf" when there is no wolf and so must face danger alone when a wolf actually appears, those who trumpet the dangers of viruses often find the public to be increasingly apathetic when new attacks are discovered. The issue is not helped by an industry that is faintly tainted. Many journalists have noticed that often those who raise loudest the warning cry are owners of companies that publish virus protection software. It makes sense to scare the public into buying protection, but the practice may have questionable ethics.
Almost as troublesome are those who pass on emails that contain warnings of viruses to everybody in their address lists. Often these users are somewhat new to computers. Fearful of losing or damaging their own investments, they wish to spare their friends from calamity. The result is a big stream of well-intentioned junk email, often followed by a chagrined stream of "oops" emails, once they become aware of their apparent naiveté.
The result is that fear of viruses can often be as devastating as the viruses themselves. Not to say that viruses do not wreak havoc. Any administrator who has followed up on the results of a really wicked one, such as the Majester virus that has infected law firms, can tell stories about computers that were crippled beyond recovery. This means that failure to install at least some form of antivirus protection is simply negligent. However, it must be part of a balanced program that includes user education, regular backups, normal security precautions, and intrusion detection software or hardware.