back to article 2008: A year of cowboys in IT security

Security pundits are fond are characterising personalties in information security with reference to Westerns - hence hackers wear either a "black hat" or a "white hat" like their cowboy counterparts. More recently these analogies have been replaced by comparisons with the horror genre. Security firms (usually ill-advisedly) …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone seen Unforgiven?

    That film was the antidote to the Western (yee haa, get off your horse and drink your milk) style morality, of goodies and baddies.

    It is cyberpunk, not westerns that fuel IT security, and it is that level of complexity and ambiguous morality that is closer to reality.

    It is far too simplistic to see it as black and white, and it is far too interesting to see it as shades of grey :)

    It is only the vigilantes who see themselves as cowboys, and hey most of them are angling for jobs at MS. The west was not won by the cowboys, no matter how many times you may watch True Grit, it was won by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, basically a private army. Messrs Sundance and Cassidy never stood a chance.

    IT security has virtually no good guys, it is just about people protecting their space, and others trying to invade, with arms suppliers on both sides. There is a grungy appeal to it all, but basically it revolves around poking your nose into other people's affairs or giving someone else a really shitty day, normally both :)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And no mention of

    that debian bug...

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Silver Bullet

    <a href="">The Lone Ranger</a> shot silver bullets.

  4. Andus McCoatover


    Thought nowadays it was Indians... (Ask Phil-the-Greek)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Sony rootkit?

    I thought it was Russinovich who exposed the Sony rootkit? Although Kaminsky did contribute by showing the extent of the infection.

  6. Kwac
    Gates Halo

    @ ac -And no mention of

    A hint of desperation?

    No mention - possibly because it had minimal significance when considered along the items reported in the article.

    Problem found and quickly resolved. Other items mentioned went on for years.

    Move along - nothing to see here.

    (possibly the merest hint of sarcasm in the avatar)

  7. jake Silver badge


    "Thought nowadays it was Indians"

    No, we're talking security. You are thinking about paint-by-numbers phone support.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    westerns for our times

    The Wild West (note capitals) is not a good model for the security wars. In the Wild West, you had Good Guys, and Bad Guys (note capitals), and all punishment was capital too, with the Good Guys outdrawing the Bad Guys and leaving them bleeding in the dust, or kicking at the end of a noose after swift frontier justice.

    In the security wars of the 21st centure, the Bad Guys are still around, mostly robbing farmers and townsfolk with a fountain pen. But the good guys don't have six-shooters anymore. The best the good guys can ever do is mend fences pulled down by the Bad Guys. The good guys never ever return the stolen paryoll or bank deposits. The Bad Guys done spent the whole thing on whiskey.

    Oh yeah, every now and then you hear about a Bad Guy who gets busted, or served a billion-zillion-dollar judgement for something you vaguely remember happened back when you were younger and innocent. But you never hear that they actually went to prison, or how old they were when they got out. There's no Boot Hill (note capitals) outside of town where the bodies of cyber-outlaws are buried.

    The lesson is one of immorality and helplessness, and infrequent punishment. The Old West mataphor is peoples' way of wishing out loud that John Wayne (not Clint Eastwood, because he's too bad) would ride into town and put a bullet into the Bad Guys, so we could feel something other than depression.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Ultimate security

    Switch it off

    Find the box it came in

    Pack it away into said box

    Open closet

    Load box into said closet

    Lock said closet firmly

    Stay well away

    You are now safe.

  10. g e

    Waco Kid?

    But Gary McKinnon hacks 'with this hand' ...


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