By Greg Mills
Some years ago there was a TV series featuring Tom Selleck as Magnum, a private investigator. One of the ongoing themes was his “little voice.” Call it hearing the still, small voice of God, conscience or an instinctive thought process.
Sometimes lessons of life come to us this way. For me an epiphany of sorts came when I was mentally comparing a real life bug problem with those suffering non-Apple platforms. Malware is not the fault of the user. I regularly pillar Microsoft for all manner of bugs, viruses, trojans and blue screen of death crashes without any real sympathy for the millions of Windows users. Buggy software and insecure software cost the economy as much as the war on terror.
The other day our 11-year-old daughter mentioned that she had trouble sleeping and was itchy. We figured it was just dry skin or whatever and dismissed it. That night as she went to bed, within minutes she was complaining again. My wife checked it out and discovered hundreds, or even thousands, of tiny black bugs had indeed infested her bed. My first fear, bedbugs, was fortunately not the problem.
I checked on the Internet and discovered the culprits were called “pepper mites.” These tiny bugs don’t really like chomping on people much, but, hey, when you can’t find a bird nest, people are also eatable too. My daughter had little bite marks like chiggers on her, so we know they do bite.
She showered and changed pajamas. We fixed her up in the guest bedroom and went to bed. I was awakened three times that night with mysterious itches. I then remembered my daughter had come up to watch our large screen TV and apparently laid down on our bed the morning before. She had infected our bed as well.
All of this isn’t anyone’s fault. An infected bird built a nest in the corner of the house under the eves right above my daughter’s bed;when the meal ticket left the nest, the starving pepper mites abandoned the nest looking for food.
Computer viruses strike people unawares, but have a more sinister origin than mites. We have cleaned the rooms thoroughly with the vacuum and ran the sheets though the dryer on “hot” every night to kill all the critters hiding in our beds. Once we break the three-day life cycle of the pepper mite, we ought to be bug free.
People with bugs in their computers go through sort of the same process. First you identify a problem, then apply a solution. Changing platforms is costly and sort of like moving away to solve the problem. I am going to remove all the bird nests I can find under the eves of the house to prevent similar problems in the future. Computer users can also do things to reduce the risk of infections.
There were numerous “solutions” sold on the Internet that could have solved our bug problem. Some solutions were expensive, and some were less drastic. What I figured we would do is try first to simply keep drying out any mites in our beds using the dryer and hope the rest die out from lack of food. We are going on vacation for a week soon, and there won’t be anything to eat around here longer than they live. If all the eggs hatch and die, that ought to kill them off.
With a computer, keeping up to date on risky things can protect you. I read yesterday that with Windows, one in 14 downloads has hidden malware in it. Downloading things from the Internet is the number one source of computer bugs. With Windows, some sort of virus protection is almost mandatory. Knowing what to do if you still get something going wrong is also important.
Using the Apple platforms tend to dull our sympathy for the unfortunates using other, less secure, devices. It appears likely there are going to be actual risks we need to look out for in the Apple world, as well. It has been suggested that when Apple reaches 15% of the market, actual malware is likely to show up. Those who make money or get some sort of evil pleasure out of creating havoc for others haven’t considered Apple’s platforms that interesting so far, since only a minority use the platform.
I suspect the reason Apple malware in the wild is so rare goes beyond the popularity numbers of the platform to the basic security of the systems themselves. Apple designed the Mac OS X and iOS to be more secure from the foundation up. Malware is certain to be more of a problem that it has historically been for Apple, but I don’t think it will ever be the problem it continues to be for Microsoft.
Apple’s closed system — as opposed to the open source Android system — is also a significant security advantage. It has just come out in the last few days that Android smartphones are not secure when running on Wi-Fi and can be “taken over” maliciously and have data stolen. Data can include account numbers and personal information you simply have to keep private.
We got our bugs under control here in the Mills household. Every time I scratch a mite bite, I will remember the poor minions who still have bugs in their computers.
Thats Greg’s Mite Bite for today
(Greg Mills is currently a graphic and Faux Wall Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. Greg is an Extra Class Ham Radio Operator, AB6SF, iOS developer and web site designer. He’s also working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process for turning waste dual pane glass window units into thermal solar panels used to heat water see: www.CottageIndustrySolar.com Married, with one daughter, Greg writes for intellectual property web sites and on Mac/Tech related issues. See Greg’s art web site at http://www.gregmills.info He can be emailed at email@example.com )