'There's something wrong with my laptop,' I complained to my little sister. My little sister ignored me. This is because my little sister is inherently very impolite and also because she thinks the amount of money I spent buying my laptop was obscene, and like a Victorian lady, simply refuses to acknowledge its offending presence. (The practical implications for this are, naturally, treacherous).
'It's taking forever to do anything,' I continued gamely. 'And I can't open iTunes unless I turn off the internet. Basically, it's turning into an enormously overpriced boom box.' My little sister stared at me blankly, because one of her favourite things is pretending she cannot remember any part of the 80s, despite being only 27 months younger than me. 'Also,' I continued on unperturbed. 'Every time I use the internet, people ask me if I want to chat with them, or dominos offers me a half-price pizza.' My sister remained silent. 'And obviously I would like to make new friends and enjoy cheap pizza, but I'm trying to book a train ticket! The internet really has no sense of timing.'
'You've got a virus,' my little sister said finally, sneering at me in a way that made it perfectly clear that she considered the whole matter beneath her. (At this point I moved my laptop carefully out of throwing range, just in case). 'What internet security provider are you using?' I laughed, because internet security software is like ironing, or packing the night before a flight- done only by the neurotic or the elderly. 'What internet security do you have?' I asked pointedly, hoping that we could drop this matter immediately, and move on to the more pressing issue of ordering our 241 pizzas. 'Norton,' she replied flatly. 'It was ½ price when I bought my laptop.'
It seems that internet security has stealthily become something every sensible person has, like a winter coat. In my defence, I have tried to buy a winter coat twice now, but both times been distracted by wildly over-priced fake-leather leggings, and a man I was certain was Colin Firth. (He wasn't).
I was still unconvinced, until I began to investigate the whole thing. I went to a talk by Nicolas Brulez, who is the principal malware researcher for Kaspersky, which is one of the biggest security vendors in the world. (Obviously I was not going to give my little sister the satisfaction of buying Norton security. Also, she very stiffly refused to let me 'share' hers). In 1994, Brulez told me, they would discover one new virus an hour. By 2006 it was one new virus a minute. In 2011, Kaspersky neutralized a new virus a second.
'Yes,' I agreed happily. 'This whole internet security thing is a recent problem.' I looked at Brulez with a steady, serious gaze, hoping to imply that I was just about to solve this whole virus thing, when I got distracted by the man-who-looked-exactly-like-Colin-Firth. Brulez gave me a puzzled look, and continued. 'Well,' he continued. 'The first mobile phone threat was discovered in 2004. But between 2011 and 2013 mobile malware has increased tenfold.'
'Oh,' I replied unconcernedly. 'There's nothing important on my phone.' Brulez looked aghast, and I was just about to explain how, although hilarious, I doubted the recent photos I had taken of the world's largest onion had a great re-sell value, when he asked if I had heard of banker malware. 'Banker malware relies on the fact that when you log in to your bank account from your phone you insert a code. It installs a program on your phone so that when the bank sends you your unique activation code, they capture it, and are able to forward this code to criminals.'
'Oh,' I said. 'Yes, that's not great.' 'There are things you can do,' Brulez continued comfortingly. 'For instance, you can buy anti-theft protection software for your phone.'
I am now the proud owner of what is termed 'multi-device' security. 'See,' I showed my little sister recently. 'So now, not only is my computer working again, but my phone is still protected, even if someone steals it.' 'So no-one can see that giant onion photo?' my little sister asked. 'Exactly!' I replied. 'Although we're going to have to start paying full-price for pizza again.'