When I got into fighting viruses, worms, and trojans, there were only a dozen publicly known malware programs. In fact, we were warned about them in an online newsletter called the Dirty Dozen. I remember when Eric Newhouse gave up maintaining the list because the number of malicious programs reached almost 200.
Back in the day, virus scanners were coded to look for a single virus. There was a different scanner for each possible malware program. If the program found the virus, you had to run another companion program to remove it. John McAfee made the first antivirus scanner that could scan for multiple bad programs at once.
I've also watched lots of teenagers and young adults get seduced by the allure of malicious hacking. These days, there is a lot of money (and not a lot of risk) to be made by illegal hacking. I believe that if we catch them early on, many of the people who might become malicious hackers can be directed toward more productive pursuits with a little guidance.
If you know of someone hacking maliciously, intervene and ask them to fight the better fight. It doesn't take much knowledge to write a computer virus or worm. Anybody can do that. It's writing a solid defense tool that defeats all those pesky critters that takes real talent.
After 20 years (and I’ll probably put in another 20 to 30 before I retire), I can truly say I love my career. I'm a lucky working stiff. But the truth is, I wish all computer security problems would just go away. When I say this out loud, some people ask me what I would do with my career. I always respond that I'd spend it helping people to be more productive on the computers instead of chasing away creeps and malware programs.
So, how will this column change with me going to work full-time at Microsoft? Probably not much. I'll continue to be a full-time computer security skeptic and supporter of all computer platforms. Readers might remember that my New Year's resolution recommendation was for them to install OpenBSD, not Vista. It is my goal in life to make computer security better and to educate end users -- whether that's at Microsoft or in this column.