Reason 10,467 that Wired is Losing Respect

3 minute read

Wired magazine has been steadily losing favor in technology circles. This isn’t because they’re a commercial giant. It’s because of piss poor reporting. In New Browsers, Same Unwanted Ads, we get to read all the same FUD that has been spread by Microsoft about other operating systems, just in the sphere of web browsers now. In other words, Firefox (and others) are only more secure now because of security through obscurity. You’re only safe because you’re using something that attackers don’t know about (yet).

To back up this claim, they interview a “security expert.”

“There’s still a lot more spyware that gets in through the holes in Internet Explorer than through the holes in Mozilla, but it’s changing,” said Anthony Arrott, director of threat research for InterMute, a maker of software that blocks spyware and pop-up ads.

As of today, spyware writers have not successfully targeted Firefox users on a large scale. However, Arrott says that spyware writers are more attracted to Mozilla today simply because it has more users. A few years ago, when Internet Explorer dominated the browser arena to a greater degree, there wasn’t much reason for authors of malicious applications to target its rivals. Now that Mozilla has critical mass, however, it’s become worth their while.

“The reason there is so much spyware in IE and not on these alternate browsers is not because IE has so many more inherent security problems but because IE has so many more users,” Arrott said. As other browsers become more popular, he added, spyware users will go after them too.

The upshot of spyware writers’ newfound attraction to Mozilla, Arrott predicts, will be that in the next six months or so computer security guides will stop recommending that people switch from IE to halt intrusions.

Sounds authoritative, no? Well, sure, if you discount the fact that the guy is in management for a company that sells protection software. You can’t very well do that though because that’s his only claim to being an expert of any kind. As such, we’ll have to analyze this position.

I want you to brace yourself. Ready? Arrott’s company makes software that blocks spyware and pop-up ads for Internet Explorer and no alternate browsers. It’s shocking I know. His company relies upon two things. First, Internet Explorer needs to have large security holes and exploits. Well, that’s already been provided. The second thing they rely on is continued Internet Explorer usage. Their market size and level of success is directly proportionate to the usage rate of Internet Explorer. Let me be a little more verbose about what that means. He and his company have direct financial interest in keeping people on Internet Explorer and scaring them away from alternate solutions.

This truth is transparently obvious. The guy has bias coming out of his ears. Yet, author Joanna Glasner still felt that he makes a good source for her story. Further, she makes him the centerpiece for the article. Is this news or an advertisement? Not only is she furthering InterMute’s business by spreading FUD, but she gives them free advertising spotlight. Have you heard of this software before? Neither have I.

If Wired wants to be a shining beacon of respected technology news and information, they need to stop publishing pieces like this. The real news at the heart of this article is that advertisers have recently found a way to subvert pop-up blocking software in all browsers. This includes solutions like the pop-up blocker built into the Google Toolbar (which, unlike InterMute’s software is free). I personally have not experienced this issue (with Firefox on Windows or Safari on OS X). Unfortunately, the code to do this (which I assume is a piece of Javascript) has not been exposed. For this reason, it’s impossible to place blame. It does not suggest that moving to Firefox in lieu of IE for security reasons is a bad idea. Wired has to stop whoring itself out.