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Season of Bounty

Dec 03, 20033 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoft

Microsoft, taking a page from the antiterror handbook, announced last month that it would offer serious dollars to anyone willing to drop a dime on the architects of those nettlesome exploits, Blaster and Sobig, as well as others yet unnamed. While some critics carped, uncharitably, that this might divert effort and attention from the goal of making Microsoft’s product suite a tad hardier and more resistant to exploitation, we applaud the bounty program nonetheless. In the spirit of the season, we would like to nominate some other troubling circumstances that might benefit from a similar approach (which in recent history, you’ll recall, was actually pioneered by O.J. Simpson in his effort to catch the “real” killers of Nicole and Ron).

President Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, should offer a $5,000 bounty leading to the capture of whoever in the White House leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Because the Bush administration is eager to get to the bottom of that situation, I’m thinking the president himself might be willing to kick in a few thousand from his $200 million campaign war chest.

My colleague Steve Traynor thinks that someone should offer a bounty of $18,500 (US) to anyone with information leading to the capture of famed Nigerian banker Dr. Collins Mbadiwe. (If you put up the $18,500, I’m told, you stand to get back a good deal more than that!)

Scott Berinato, whose taste in music runs toward stuff that was hot in the late ’80s, would like someone to rat out the agent who discovered Celine Dion. He’s willing to put up $500 of his own money, and others on the staff are considering making donations of their own.

Locally, people keep stealing the bronze “Make Way for Ducklings” statues of Mack, Ouack, Jack, Lack and their siblings right out of the cement pathways of the Boston Common. We’d pay good money to find out who’s twisted enough to ducknap beloved art objects.

Sarah Scalet thinks the Recording Industry Association of America ought to offer a bounty to high school and college students who turn in their classmates for downloading music (except, of course, for Celine Dion’s).

We’ve also had it with other celebrities. Would someone rid us of Bennifer? And what about Bill O’Reilly and Al Franken (the guy O’Reilly yelled “Shut up!” at when Franken called him a liar)? And Princess Diana’s butler, Paul something or other— can someone please make him go away?

There are a lot of good, principled uses to which the concept of a bounty can be put. We’ve got a price on the head of any weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. We’re willing to pay big bucks for Saddam himself and assorted al-Qaida villains. On the other hand, with all the money escrowed away for information leading to various devoutly wished apprehensions, you could probably fund a lot of arts programs that have been cut from the budgets of cash-strapped school systems. Or create an incentive program within Microsoft to author code that doesn’t contain so many of the vulnerabilities that some underemployed morons find so enticing.

The other bounty worth mentioning this month is that contained within the pages of this issue. Our year-end package—deftly managed by Assistant Managing Editor Kathleen Carr and Senior Editor Daintry Duffy—takes a look at the state of the known security universe and points ahead to the future of the profession. We invite your feedback, as always, and wish you a peaceful, bountiful holiday season and a Happy New Year.—Lew McCreary