http://www.wired.com/news/infostructure/0,1377,59473,00.html By Michelle Delio July 03, 2003 One of the Web's best FUD-fighting sites may not be around much longer. FUD -- which stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt -- is a marketing technique. Stir up enough FUD about some scary threat and people might feel compelled to buy your product to protect themselves from impending doom. FUD about computer security abounds, both on the Web and off. One website, Vmyths, focuses on debunking marketing-promoted rumors and media-fueled myths about computer viruses, cyberterrorism and computer security. But barring a miracle of the financial sort, Vmyths, which draws thousands of visitors a day, may soon be all but dead. It will remain online, but won't be updated after Vmyths' founder and prime contributor Rob Rosenberger heads off to serve a military stint in the Persian Gulf in mid-July. "Rob is one of those lone voices in the wilderness. I agree with about 70 percent of what he says, but I'll defend to the death, as it were, his right to say it," said Robert Ferrell, a security consultant. "He's definitely made an indelible impression on the anti-FUD movement, and the loss of Vmyths will be sorely felt by those of us who fight that fight." Rosenberger, who has shined the bright light of sarcasm into every dark corner of the computer security industry since 1995, believes Vmyths' independent and contentious nature is probably what lead to its demise. "People don't pay for criticism and they don't pay for independence. The problem is, who will fork over a few bucks? We slaughter a cash cow every time we refuse to run antivirus ads." Rosenberger refuses to accept advertisements from antivirus and computer security firms, fearing they would compromise Vmyths' independence. And he's been unsuccessful in finding a neutral corporate sponsor to support the site. Vmyths also suffers from the same problems experienced by other sites: People are apparently unwilling to pay for information on the Web. A recent fund-raising plea to Rosenberger's 20,000-plus mailing-list subscribers was not successful. "I'd pressed Rob to do a fund-raiser for some time and he finally agreed to it," said Vmyths editor George Smith. "But Rob's distaste for marketing himself made it a watery request that netted around a couple hundred dollars." "One could have earned more money in the same time standing on a corner, dressed up like a bum, with a 'Please help the homeless' placard." Despite the dismal show of financial support, Vmyths is widely respected in the security industry. "Vmyths (is) a major voice in the struggle to bring sanity to the Internet security industry," said Richard Forno, an independent computer security consultant. "Rob's clever site serves as one of the few voices of reason, sanity and reality-based analysis in a world polluted by incessant knee-jerk, gloom-and-doom soundbyte prophecies coming from those with the least insight into how the Information Age actually works." Rosenberger isn't surprised at Vmyths unsuccessful struggle to find a sponsor. He believes that many people -- government officials, security solution vendors and the press -- have a vested financial interest in keeping alarmist security myths alive. "The computer security industry is a media circus. It's filled with clowns who want to siphon billions of dollars of counterterrorism funds so the Keystone Cops can shield us from Osama bin Virus," Rosenberger said. "Prostitute pundits stand fearlessly on the corners of New York City and compare 'cyberterrorism' to real terrorism. They stand fearlessly on the corners of Washington, D.C. and compare 'cyberwar' to real war. They pull numbers out of thin air and tell whoppers with a perfectly straight face. They want us to blame everything but them when they fail to do what we pay them for." Still, Rosenberger was sanguine about the site's seemingly impending demise. "I'm only bummed by the fact that no one at Vmyths has received a salary in over a year," Rosenberger said. And in typical Rosenberger fashion, he also warned that rumors of Vmyths' death may be widely exaggerated. Vmyths may become subscription-based, as Smith has suggested. "Screw the dumbfounded majority," Smith said. "The idea of Vmyths is solid: We need independent criticism in the computer security industry," Rosenberger added. "Vmyths may simply be ahead of its time. If so, then we might shut down certain functions until they prove viable again. "To quote Matrix Reloaded: There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept." - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email firstname.lastname@example.org with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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