Archive: December 1999 — The Y2K worm threat

It’s difficult to do a December 1999 edition of Archive without featuring an article that month that went something like this: Ooh, Y2K is coming and we’re all screwed.

But, as we all know, naught (or next to naught) came from this IT scare. (What was really scary about 2000 was all the

layoffs in the technology sector.) There was, however, a school of thought that the real Y2K threat would come in the form of a virus. Gartner Group released information in late 1999 that law enforcement agencies around the world had received 30,000 such threats from hackers and virus makers.

A spokesman from Network Associates suggested that 30,000 was probably an inflated number, but the anti-virus firm was still taking the possibility very seriously. On the heels of the Melissa virus, anything seemed possible. RCMP officer Paul Teeple said that stiff penalties would be awarded to anyone who deliberately launched a virus, and warned that the consequences could be more dire than having business networks disrupted. If a 911 system went down, lives could be on the line.

In the three years since the Y2K scare, both viruses and the means of tracking and preventing them have become more advanced. Symantec’s special operations centre, for example, tracks more than 4,000 threats on any given day.

The equivalent of Y2K for 2003 might just be PIPEDA. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act is due to come into full effect on Jan. 1. But in December 1999, the word was that the legislation may never even get off the ground.

Back then, it was still being referred to as Bill C-6. It may have well have been called Bill C-ya later. The original deadline for the bill was the end of 1999, but at that point there were still talks of delays, perhaps permanently. Industry Canada spokesperson Stephanie Perrin said at the time, “”I don’t think anybody is particularly happy with this, except maybe parts of the health-care industry.”” The prospect that medial records-keeping would be federally monitored had some professionals in the industry up in arms.

PIPEDA actually began its rollout in 2001 and the prospect of legislated privacy in 2003 had some companies scrambling to keep up.

“”I get the impression most of the big boys in business are prepared for PIPEDA, but I think the majority of smaller businesses are vulnerable to being blindsided by it,”” said Sid Ridgley, president of Ont.-based company Simul Corp., just last month.

In 1999, just about everybody was past the “”What the hell is the Internet?”” question, and more focused on “”What the hell do we do with it?””

For the channel, it represented both a blessing and a curse. It turns out that people could actually buy products from this Internet thing and forgo the middle man altogether. Companies like Dell were quick to capitalize on the phenomenon — it currently does more than half of its direct business online.

The blessing part of the Internet turned out to be the number of opportunities it represented for after-market sales, and access to new selling tools and various vendor support resources.

IDC analyst Chris Silva said in 1999 that it’s easy to get bowled over by the prospect of a company like Dell doing monster business online, but “”the truth is the Internet can be used as a tool to increase the service and support a channel partner can provide.””

Vice-president of global business partner strategy Nick Pegley said the Internet could also act as a righting mechanism for all levels of channel players. Through the Internet, they can “”have the help desk come to them . . . and they can use that, in turn, to service their customers.””


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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