James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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If you’re reading this, apparently the worm didn’t turn

Posted by James McPherson on March 31, 2009

The dreaded “Conficker” virus may have shut down your computer, and mine, by the time you would have read this, since I’m writing it just minutes before midnight.

But I doubt it. On Monday, I had my media criticism class analyze the “60 Minutes” report about the virus from the previous night. They chuckled about much of it, and noticed a lot of advertising for the same company that protects my work computer but that my computer store rep suggested I avoid. And that was before the Web version of the story started out with a correction.

My students, fledgling media critics that they are, agreed that their grandparents, and other people my age and older, might be as afraid of that as many were of Y2K. Of course, few of the students remembered the panic about Y2K. Do you?

If so, you’re probably sleeping as soundly as I intend to be very shortly. Waking up on April 1, I’ll have other hoaxes to worry about–like whatever the students produce for the April Fools edition of the student newspaper.

13 Responses to “If you’re reading this, apparently the worm didn’t turn”

  1. zelda said

    guess we made it James……..

  2. Gabrielle said

    you amuse me, zelda xD

    oh, and i definitely remember the y2k scare. none of the adults i knew took it seriously. i kind of hoped it would happen in the morbid way imaginative children do…i thought it might make life more interesting x.x

  3. warren searfoss said

    The report that the makers of this so called worm did something different in that it was able to disable automatic updates. Some reporter hasnt done his/her homework. When I was in college back in 2003 our libary computer too to long to shut down. We tried to do a update and was told no updates available. We ran a anti spybot program and found plenty to get rid of. Afterwards microsoft was able to update. So this idea of preventng updates has been around a long time. I am not a young kid I am 54 and been around computers since the eighties. Started out with the COCO computers when my kids were not even in their teens yet. If people would update their anti spy ware and anti virus programs along with automatic updates they should have no problem. OH yea they have to run the programs also just because they update automaticly doesnt mean they run. Dont know how many people told me they thought the program ran by its self also.

  4. Reality said

    The Y2K scare was about making money through fear, as I suspect most internet worms and viruses are. The truth was that only Windows and a few badly written programs had a problem. It remains to be seen what this conflicker worm actually does. There are a lot of people out there who pay no attention to keeping their computers updated with the latest versions of virus definitions and security patches. This is the only way these worms can propagate so widely. The media may be over-blowing this, but CERT isn’t given to histrionics and they are saying that it could be a week or more before the full effect of the worm is seen. It never was a case that any of our computers would simply stop working today, but rather, infected machines will have the automatic windows update feature, firewall, and anti-virus software disabled. This will leave infected computers completely vulnerable to further infection by other viruses, worms, and malware. Having one’s credit card numbers, Social Security number, and other sensitive information transmitted to an identity thief is no laughing matter. I suspect that this worm is only a first test and that a much more dangerous one is to follow.

  5. Tracey said

    I remember the Y2K problem. I worked for a computer software company at the time. No, the world didn’t end (we never thought it would), but there were serious problems affecting the behavior of software that needed to be taken seriously and addressed. A lot of people act like the entire problem was a hoax; it was not. We found a serious Y2K bug in our software in November 1999 and had to send out letters and emails to all our clients, advising them to change their short-date format to a four-digit year to avoid data loss in reports.

    That said, I agree that Conficker’s threat is probably overrated. The things that get a lot of media attention are usually largely addressed in time. That’s what happened with Y2K. It’s the things you aren’t expecting that cause problems.

  6. brandon said

    although i do know one person that works in a corporation, that im not allowed to name, it seems as if conficker was more or less “an april fools joke”, or it seems that way so far. though we may not see the true effects for awhile to come, im just sitting back and waiting for the “fun” to start. because if something does happen, people will start to panic, and civilian panic is always fun to watch on the news because the drama is so imense. but for now, we all must wait i suppose.

  7. ................... said


    aint nothing happened yet.

    i think nothing will happen, or nothing will happen for a while.

    theres all these non-tech savvy people that will panic… and it will be amusing for the rest of us.

    oh well.

    anyone that updated after october 20 something of 08 is fine…

  8. […] If you’re reading this, apparently the worm didn’t turn The dreaded “Conficker” virus may have shut down your computer, and mine, by the time you would have read […] […]

  9. littlemissanya said

    I remember the y2K scare.

    My computer DID crash this morning. Now, I don’t believe it’s because of this supposed worm… just an interesting coincidence.

  10. Gabrielle said

    Interestingly, my friend Carol’s Mac crashed this week.

    As they say, it’s only paranoia if no one’s actually after you 🙂

  11. […] the Conficker worm has “woken up” and done something. We’re not sure what, or if it matters, but once we identify and start following a scary threat or trend–however […]

  12. […] a level of anonymity on the Web and elsewhere, as difficult as that may be to believe in this viral, egocentric, Twitterific, in-your-Facebook, screw-YouTube, blogtastic […]

  13. […] I have spent hours crafting a blog post that very few people would ever read. Oddly, by far my most popular post (in one-day numbers, not overall) was a four-paragraph piece I wrote in about 15 minutes just […]

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