You Think Discovering a Computer Virus Is Hard? Try Naming One (wsj.com)

Like astronomers who discover new stars, security experts who first identify computer bugs, viruses, worms, ransomware and other coding catastrophes often get to name their finds. Such discoveries now number in the thousands each year, so crafting a standout moniker can be a serious challenge. From a report: Two years ago, German security firm SerNet GmbH figured a punchy name for their bug discovery would give the company a publicity jolt. They called it Badlock, designed a fractured-lock logo and set up a website. The marketing push backfired when some security experts decided Badlock wasn’t that bad. Cynical hackers called it Sadlock. “We would not do this again,” says SerNet Chief Executive Johannes Loxen of the branding blitz, which he says was overkill because a relatively small number of people were affected by Badlock. Hackers are no fans of marketing. They brand things in their own way. Puns and historic references are the name of the game. “They see it as a kind of grass-roots initiative,” says Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who teaches courses on hacker culture at McGill University in Montreal.

Some venerable names that have stood the test of time: The Love Bug, for the worm that attacked millions of Windows personal computers in 2000, and Y2K, a turn-of-the-century programming scare that didn’t live up to its hype. Many names tend more toward geekspeak. The title of hacker magazine 2600 is a tip of the hat to 2600 hertz, the frequency old-school hackers reproduced to trick AT&T phone lines into giving them free calls. Computer worm Conficker is an amalgam of “configure” and a German expletive. Code Red is named after the Mountain Dew drink researchers guzzled while investigating the worm.

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