Mythic Monday – The Bunyip
Most folks in my culture don’t know much about the bunyip. That is, unless they saw Dot and the Kangroo as an impressionable youth, in which case they had nightmares for years… but I digress.
According to aboriginal legend, the bunyip lives in lakes and emerges at night to devour animals or people nearby. Like many monsters of this type, people were warned to avoid the rousing the wrath of the bunyip, or they would be eaten alive. In short, if you left it alone, it would leave you alone.
The thing, though, is that the lake has a bunyip in it. You all know it. You may be able to fool yourself into a false sense of safety, but you all know that to retain that false sense of safety, there are things that you must do (or not do). In the case of the bunyip, it’s a simple matter of not going out at night and not going near water. (The rules are different in the Dreamtime, but this blog doesn’t dive into the minutia of mythology (much)).
These days, most Western people disregard such monster stories. Our lives are such that we don’t need to invent such stories to explain away unknowns. When people vanish from our lives, they are much more likely to get hit by a car or die of old age then they are to mysteriously vanish in the night. This doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t make up stories. Quite the contrary, we make them up all the time, in exactly the same way.
How many times have you felt like your computer follows a strange set of rules? Maybe there is an incantation you go through to make something start (The desktop icon doesn’t work, so you click the start menu, navigate to programs, go to “Microsoft”, click on “Word”, cross your fingers and hope it starts). Maybe there are things that you do differently in your life (Don’t use that computer to access the Internet, it’s too slow, use the laptop from work instead.) Maybe you just warn others away from that particular system.
Maybe there’s a monster in your PC.
In the security field, we assign all sorts of names to these monsters: virus, worm, trojan, rootkit, backdoor, etc. We do this because, as monster hunters, it helps us to know what sort of creature we may be facing. It makes it easier to communicate tracking and hunting techniques. And sadly, just as in the stories, the monsters often win. Just when we think we have them figured out they turn out to have friends or be aligned with a trickster of some sort, then they come after us in force. It can be quite demoralizing.
However, we’re the experts, if we are so often stymied, what can you possibly do to protect yourself?
The first step is to stop hiding in your huts cowering from the night. If your computer is making you change your behavior, there’s a problem. Maybe it’s broken, maybe the app is poorly written, or maybe there’s a monster in there. The thing is, if you let your computer control you, you’ll never know if there’s a monster in the lake or if it’s just a floating log.
The second step, and one that would help us all a lot, is to start locking the lakes. Simply put, if you live in a world with monsters (as we do), it’s kind of stupid to invite them in. If you’re not running an antimalware system of some sort, you’re leaving your system open to be colonized by monsters. Similarly, if you visit other lakes that are likely to be infested with monsters, they just might follow you home. Practically, this means avoiding porn and gambling sites.
Lastly, if you think there may be a monster lurking around, you might want to consider calling in an expert monster hunter. We may not be as cool as the people in the movies, but we’ve got a fighting chance at getting rid of them. And after all, it’s better than being eaten in the night.