The Number of the Beast

Filed Under: Malware

Anyone who has worked for a computer software company will be familiar with an influential and important tribal group called Product Management. Members of this tribe generally have a chameleon-like ability which helps them to operate easily and effectively in a range of departments, including engineering, marketing, documentation, quality assurance, sales engineering and customer care.

When release time comes around, they are even expected to act as the conscience of the company -- and nowhere is this duty taken more seriously than by Product Management at Sophos. Recognising that the devil really is in the details, they concern themselves with even the most esoteric issues.

SAV 6.6.6
So I wasn't surprised to hear that we had some questions about this month's Sophos Anti-Virus for Linux release. Usually, I expect to be faced with complaints from the Loony Linux Left -- the sort of people who like to explain incorrectly not only that there are no Linux viruses but also that Windows viruses redistributed from Linux boxes are Bill Gates's own fault.

This month, however, the potential issue is that we are at SAV version 6.6.6. Is Sophos Anti-Virus for Linux the Number of the Beast?

For some reason, answering this question has fallen to me. (Product Management may be smart chameleons, but there are some jobs which they simply aren't up to.)

I can't quite understand why, as I am neither a theologian, nor a licensed preacher, nor a Bible scholar. Even more worryingly, I am neither a linguist, nor a textual critic, nor an expert in the analysis of manuscripts. But I do own a Greek New Testament, and a digital camera to take photographs of it (the underlined text is the beast's number -- six hundred and sixty-six).

So, is the September 2009 version of SAV for Linux the Number of the Beast?

Product Managers, you may stand down from satanic alert. Firstly, 666 is properly the number of the name of the beast. I challenge you to make a numerological connection -- or, indeed, any other sort of connection -- between the text "Sophos Anti-Virus for Linux, September 2009" and the number 666 (and, anyway, the beast is a man, not a computer program). Secondly, the tag we've given to SAV for Linux this month is not the number 666, but the text string 6.6.6.

So let's not worry too much about what people might think about the version string 6.6.6.

Let's worry about those Linux users who are not only unwilling to run anti-virus, but who also regard the entire concept of anti-malware protection as the devil's work. Linux viruses on Linux are unusual, but more common than is appropriate; Windows viruses passed from Linux to Windows are unusual, but more common than is appropriate.

Ask not what you can do for your own PC, but what you can do for the rest of the internet!

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog