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ESET spreading FUD about torrent files, clients

Anti-virus companies — or cyber security companies as they like to call themselves these days — are known for spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt among computer users due to the poor level of education among them.

After this kind of exercise, the user is offered the universal panacea – some product or information from the company that is spreading the misinformation.

But ESET has taken this to a new level by issuing a blanket warning to users to view torrent files and clients as a threat.

The warning came from the company's so-called security evangelist Ondrej Kubovič, who used extremely patchy data to try and scare the bejesus out of computer users.

Like all such attempts at FUD, his treatise ended with a claim that ESET was the one true source whereby users could obtain "knowledge" to protect themselves. "If you want to stay informed and protect yourself by building up your knowledge, read the latest pieces by ESET researchers on WeLiveSecurity," he wrote.

fear

Kubovič used the case of Transmission — a BitTorrent client that was breached in March and August 2016 with malware implanted and aimed at macOS users — to push his barrow.

But to use this one instance to dissuade people from downloading BitTorrent clients en masse is nothing short of scaremongering. There are dozens, if not more, BitTorrent clients which enjoy much wider usage, with uTorrent being one good example.

Kubovič then used the old furphy which is resorted to by those who lobby on behalf of the copyright industry – torrents are mostly illegal files and downloading them is Not The Right Thing To Do™.

But then he failed to mention that hundreds of thousands of perfectly legitimate files are also offered as torrents – for instance, this writer regularly downloads images of various GNU/Linux distributions using a BitTorrent client because it is the more community-friendly thing to do, rather than using a direct HTTP link and hogging all the bandwidth available.

What about files that are used to spread Windows malware – .doc files, .xls files, .exe files, and so on? Kubovič did not appear to have recollection of any of these dangers.

Now it is true that many files which are offered through torrent sites contain malware, adware, trojans, and many other delights which are mostly aimed at unsuspecting Windows users.

But Kubovič did not mention any operating system as opening one to danger; like many others in his industry he probably does not want to anger Microsoft, the reason why most people write malware, and the company many people have dubbed the Typhoid Mary of the Internet.

Given the number of online threats to users these days, especially those who persist in using Windows, anti-virus firms should be adopting a more responsible attitude rather than spreading gross generalisations about this file format or that.

Shame on ESET for stooping to such tactics.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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