Lock away your most vital technology its February 3rd 2006, a day computer users all over the world are supposed to have been dreading for weeks.
Its the date that a crop of public relations companies decided to call Techworld to ask whether we would like to interview their clients about the Nyxem virus (aka Kama Sutra and Blackdoom), predicted to cause calamity for anyone infected with it on this very day.
Are things that bad? I reminded them that this is the anniversary of the day Buddy Holly fell to earth in an Iowa field in 1959, the day the dreadful Battle of Stalingrad officially ended in 1943, and the day a now obscure British record producer called Joe Meek blew out his brains in a London flat in 1967. I put the last example in to see how many were music buffs, but some of them hadnt heard of the first two events either.
The latest prediction is that this virus will almost certainly do very little harm. Theres a simple reason for that people knew it was coming.
The first and best-known date virus was the Michaelangelo boot sector virus in 1992, supposed to cause havoc on the birthday of the great artist, March 6th. Nothing much happened then either but it went down in history as the first time the non-technical user heard the term virus referred to in relation to computers.
Fifteen years ago, a virus could announce itself to the world in the way Michaelangelo did because the method of infection was the slow but sure one of the floppy disk. Attack took weeks but so did defence. Now attack is rapid but so is defence. Any anti-virus program updated in recent days will have had the means to detect and stop Nyxem.
The hysteria over Nyxem belies that fact that the future of big event malware does not lie with viruses, no matter how nasty their payloads. It lies with the much more sophisticated Trojan, a trapdoor to all sorts of unpleasant things. Of course, Trojans dont execute on a single day, they execute any day. February 3rd comes round every day for a Trojan, a worm or an exploit aimed at a software vulnerability.