Cyber Evangelist, IBM
April 4, 2002
SAN JOSE, California -- Good news for Sisyphus, the ancient King of Corinth sentenced to an eternity of pointless labor for cheating Death: He's moving to a new job. At a press conference in San Jose yesterday, it was announced that Sisyphus will soon be responsible for fixing all known security flaws in the software industry.
Sisyphus' previous punishment was to spend eternity rolling a large boulder to the top of a mountain, only to watch helplessly as it rolled down to the bottom again and again and again. Satan, Lord of the Underworld and CEO of Hell (NYSE:HELL), explained the origin of the unusual punishment in his opening remarks. "Zeus came to me with the idea," said Satan. "He wanted to get back at Sisyphus because he'd helped the river god Asopus find his daughter Aegina after Zeus carried her away. At first, I thought the idea was a hoot. After we told [Sisyphus] what to do, Zeus and I called Bacchus, the god of wine, and the three of us had a whale of a time sitting around, drinking and laughing and watching this poor sap pushing a rock. After a few thousand years, though, it's just not funny anymore."
In announcing the new assignment, Satan stressed that Zeus, Bacchus, and the Attorneys General of nine different states had approved the change. The Prince of Darkness clearly bristled when asked if the change was made to address the in-house needs of his own IT department. "Absolutely not," he said angrily, "absolutely not. I'm announcing this today because we think this new assignment is every bit as endless and pointless as [Sisyphus'] current one. If you want to look at this from a selfish perspective, I'm a Mac person, and most of my staff are Linux fanatics, so it's not like this is going to affect our lives that much anyway. If we were all sitting here with a bunch of vulnerable Windows desktops, you might have a point. The bottom line is, we're announcing this because we think it's a endless, tortuous task, in addition to being a very modern form of punishment."
Also known around the world as "Beelzebub," and "The Son of Perdition," Satan has made a number of other changes recently in an effort to modernize Hell's reputation. Not so long ago, he was widely believed to have lost the thought leadership position in the damnation industry, particularly in the face of aggressive competition from startups like eHell and RiverOfStyx.com (both now delisted). Lately, however, Satan's fortunes have seen a dramatic turnaround. Some analysts attribute this to the struggles of dot-coms in general, while kinder critics have attributed this to Lucifer's development of new forms of torture for corporate markets, including HMO enrollment software, sensitivity training, and team-building exercises.
During a brief mountaintop interview with Sisyphus, the one-time master of Death spoke with optimism about his new role. "I'm sure fixing a few security bugs can't take that long," he said. "I'm really looking forward to getting to the other side of this mountain and getting on with my life. I've even thought of a catchphrase we could use in advertisements once the software is fixed. What do you think about, 'Sisyphus Software is Unbreakable - Can't break it, can't break in?' Oh, wait a minute, there goes that rock again...."
Analysts, however, are mixed on whether Sisyphus' new assignment is a curse or a blessing. "I like his chances better than those of some vendors I could mention," said Harry Backstayge, a principal at Backstayge and Associates, a security consultancy based in Skunk Haven, Massachusetts. "When ordinary people say, 'Security is Job One,' it's only a matter of time before some embarassing flaw is revealed in their code. Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but if this guy could outwit Death, he might be able to put the software industry ahead of the codebreakers once and for all. Besides, being a resident of the underworld, he'll have access to distribution channels the rest of us can only dream about."
Others were less impressed. According to Jacqueline Davis of Pittsburgh's Davis and Davis, Inc., "Even if Sisyphus could fix any given bug in a day, which I doubt, the security community will still find holes quicker than he can patch them. You also have to wonder how current a guy's skills are if he's spent the last three thousand years pushing a rock up a hill. Although this [new assignment] might be a nice change of pace, I predict by the end of the second quarter, Sisyphus will be wishing he were behind a boulder instead of a computer."
The Liberal Arts community seems to be taking a wait-and-see attitude about the news. "I don't see us changing the curriculum to reflect this," said Dr. Helen Roberts, Associate Professor of Classics at St. Hubbins University in Des Moines, Iowa. "It doesn't affect the relevance of Camus' landmark essay
The Myth of Sisyphus
, for example. There is one thing I like about this turn of events, though: Sisyphus was rumored to be the father of Odysseus, the creator of the Trojan Horse. I probably won't be able to resist pointing out the irony that Sisyphus is now responsible for making the world safe from any Trojan Horse viruses that are still out there. Not that any of the pinheads in my classes will get the joke, but I'll enjoy it anyway."
As for our part here at developerWorks, if Sisyphus completes his task, we'll be more than happy to dismantle the developerWorks Security Zone. Stay tuned....
|About the author|
This installment of
lol:> was written on a vulnerable Windows desktop by Doug Tidwell, who is thrilled to be using his Liberal Arts degree after all these years. His official role as Cyber Evangelist is to help customers use new technologies to solve business problems, although that job description is vague enough to cover just about anything. He does, in fact, have a Bachelor's Degree in English from the University of Georgia, and a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Vanderbilt University. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, but please be nice when you do.