I.T. One day at a time

August 19, 2010

Someone shot the good Samaritan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Craig @ 1:49 PM
An article published on ITNews.com.au highlights the intentions of the UK ISP Virgin Media to alert users, who are connected to its network,when they have been infected with malware. On the surface this scheme appears to have great merit and could potentially save home users the cost of engaging a computer tech and potentially costly losses or repairs. Unfortunately it does raise a few issues with the limits of responsibility as it relates to the user and the ISP.
Consider this scenario, a customer of Virgin Media is the proud owner of a laptop installed with a Microsoft Windows operating system. On a recent business trip they took along their personal laptop and were required to utilize the hotels Internet connection for browsing and social media activities. During this time the Virgin Media user visited a site that had been compromised with a particularly nasty malware. The type that is actively looking for personal and financial information from its victims. The users computer has now been infected due to a less than rigid regime of updating their computer with the latest software updates. Remember of course that the hotels ISP is probably not Virgin Media and if it was, would more than likely not be connected to the residential systems that this article refers to. Fast forward a few days and this customer is now back home and has connected their laptop back onto the Virgin Media ISP connection installed at home. Over the next few days the systems at Virgin Media detect this malware attempting to crawl around within its network. They identify the endpoint that the attacks are originating from and are able to contact the recently traveled customer to inform them of this detection. I have never been privy to correspondence of this nature but I imagine it would be worded something like this:
Dear Virgin Media customer,
A recent security scan on our systems has alerted us to a computer you are using on our network is infected with a malware program. In order to continually enjoy our premium internet services we suggest that you download our latest and greatest security scanning software to rid yourself of this blight.

Yours sincerely Customer service rep.

PS if you don’t rectify this problem within the next fortnight we will cut you off.

Or something like that. Now depending on the amount of time passed from the initial infection until the ISP communication arrived, the damage may have already been done. If this customer has visited financial sites before being made aware of the infection then those details have already been compromised. It is therefore entirely in the realms of possibility this customer will feel that Virgin Media has been at fault here by allowing them to become infected. After all, if they can detect the infection why couldn’t they stop it? I understand the desire for ISP’s to get customers using their networks to have malware free computers but offering a hand to help someone these days can sometimes result in getting that same hand bitten.
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