Tuesday, 11 October 2011

'Your Computer has an Infection'

I have been in and out of 'Fix It' on university campus after my computer unexpectedly crashed two nights ago. With this type of service- we hand it over, you 'Fix It' arrangement- it seems people are willing to remain ignorant to the actual problem as long as it is solved by handing over some cash and promising not to download again. Having a PC laptop, and by watching films online (occassionally), I had expected this to happen sooner or later but never totally understood why; after losing the start to my dissertation, today I wanted to find out.

I expect it had been down to converting torrents into music/movie files with UTorrent. Typical of this type of 'Direct Action' virus in file-sharing, I guess it had 'piggy-backed' onto one of the files I downloaded and replicated itself, like the bacteria of a real disease.

As my computer has a 'system cleansing' sleepover in the 'Fix It' offices, the question I still don't have an answer to is- why do people create the viruses in the first place? Is it simply for the arsen-type satisfaction of letting it all blow up in front of them?


  1. I believe the first viruses were developed somewhere in Asia, where Western rich-kid backpackers bought cheap pirated software (which was cheap to make it affordable for the local population) - the owners of the software shop disliked that and introduced viruses as a kind of revenge. I read that years ago in a computing magazine, so not sure how accurate that is.

    Then there is the satisfaction of reading about your virus having had a devastating effect on thousands of people. Assuming you are somewhat evil-minded. So it's a kind of show-off thing to earn respect of your fellow virus coders.

    And then there are Trojans, which are somewhat similar to viruses, but they allow third parties to gain access to your computer. This is then often used by criminals in organised 'bot-nets', eg to crack passwords etc. Quite good from a technical aspect, but ethically totally wrong, as they make use of thousands of computers owned by people who do not know their computer is infected (and typically run outdated and insecure versions of the operating system).

    To avoid viruses: don't download any dubious executable programs, don't click on any links in emails you are not sure about, and always have the most recent OS updates installed.

  2. If I may venture a somewhat cynical theory...

    Perhaps some of the people creating viruses out there are the ones who sell us this often expensive and sometimes quite unhelpful anti-virus software?

    Speaking of which, I thought I was being quite savvy when I decided to download free anti-virus software, but aren't they sneaky with trying to sell you the paying versions? My AVG software contstantly tries to get me to "upgrade", and once I was thrown into a fit of panic when a huge box popped up on my screen telling me that MY COMPUTER MAY BE UNSAFE TO USE, before I realised that whatever software I had at the time actually meant to say: "Your computer isn't safe ENOUGH because its protection is free and has not been paid for. Buy buy buy!"

    Wouldn't it be clever if they created some of these problems in the first place so you'd buy their "premium" protection. I'm just putting it out there...

    (The worrying thing is I'm not sure I'm joking)

  3. Surely the computer virus, and other assorted worms, trojans etc. are merely the translation of your everyday vandalism into a digital media? Aside from malicious programs deliberately designed to retrieve information for nefarious purposes, and others such as stuxnet, created to hinder the Iranian nuclear program, most electronic infections are merely inconvenient, like the graffiti on a park bench or a broken shop window.

  4. My thinking is very similar to yours Amy, in that without the existence of viruses there would be no market for anti-virus software which is a multi-million, if not multi-billion dollar market every year, which to me suggests that firms producing anti-virus software can't really have too much of an "anti-virus" ethos behind them. Whether they actively introduce viruses themselves or merely look past some of them to sustain an atmosphere of fear among users is debatable. What I was just wondering was how do the creators of viruses protect their own systems against their own creations, because whether made by a business or individual for reasons economic or for pleasure it surely cannot be worth putting their own systems at risk?


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