Report on the Psychology of Computer Viruses:
The Bugs that Never Go Away

Table of Contents

  • Instructions for This Report
  • Thoughts on Mr. Sasabe's Problem
  • Interpretation on News Item
  • My Online Resources on Computer Viruses
  • What are Computer Viruses
  • What is their Purpose?
  • Who Creates Them?
  • Why?
  • How Do They Work?
  • Famous Viruses
  • Virus Myths
  • Significance of the Existence of Computer Viruses
  • How People React to Viruses
  • How My Report is Compared to Others
  • How my Report Can Be Useful to others
  • Epilogue

  • Thoughts on Mr. Sasabe's Problem


    Akira Sasabe (G7) last semester had a virus problem towards the end of
    the semester. He wrote in an email message:

    Date: Tue, 2 Dec 1997 17:59:32 -1000
    From: Akira Sasabe
    To: Leon James
    Subject: My Report 2
    Dr. James,
        I decided to retype the whole thing today and I did just about the half of it
    now, and the information seems to appear all right on my web page. It was
    really unfortunate since this time I decided to use computers only at Porteus
    and Moore Hall. I still do not know what was the cause of the virus problem,
    but I think as long as I stick with one computer, it seems to be OK. I found
    my "favorite" computer at Porteus and do my best to secure the seat whenever
    I come in to do the work.
        I just hope that I find out the cause of this problem so other people who do
    not have computers at home will not suffer like me...

    Mr. Sasabe's problem doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. Viral Infections aren't uncommon especially at University Computer Labs where students one after another places their disks into the computer and opens up a file thereby infecting the computer. I really think that all computers should have virus detectors and that people should make it a habit to scan their diskettes and their hard drives from time to time. Updating your virus checker is what's important. There are always new viruses that come out and if you don't update your virus checker, your computer will then be susceptible to catching a new virus.

    Often times, and maybe in this case with Mr. Sasabe, the problem may not have been a virus. Many times when something goes wrong with the computer, people are quick to blame it on a virus, when in fact it is really something the user did wrong or it is a software malfunction. The only way to really know if the problem is a virus is to check it out.

    I am not too worried about computer viruses because I have a virus checker on my computer and I am constantly updating it. Also, I make it a habit to scan my diskettes and my hard drive for any viruses, and besides, I really don't use that many different computers at school except for the computers at my workplace, which are very secure from viruses.

    My boyfriend's computer was infected with a virus at one time which in turn infected my diskette. However, I fixed the problem by cleaning my diskette, and by installing anti-virus software on his computer. Another friend of mine actually collects computer viruses. I am not sure how many he has collected, but I really think that this is strange.

    I've used several types of Anti-Virus software within the past 2 years. I've tried Norton's, PcCillin, and am now using McAfee VirusScan. Out of the three, I really liked PcCillin, however I don't have the original copy of that software so I can't use it anymore. Nonetheless, all of the virus scan programs are good as long as it does it's job. I have no complaints about McAfee thus far.

    Interpretation on News Item in Edupage Online

         Energy has issued a bulletin warning that two new computer attack tools, known as
         Teardrop and Land, are being used maliciously by crackers intent on breaking into
         computer systems and networks. The software sniffs out vulnerable servers and
         launches attacks based on the "denial-of-service" strategy that overwhelms servers with
         bogus messages, blocking out legitimate traffic. "They hit the button and go down to the
         cinema with their girlfriends," says a senior systems consultant with the Defense
         Information Systems Agency. "They come back and see that they have looked at
         200,000 systems." (TechWeb 24 Dec 97)

    Honestly, I feel that people like this, should really get a life, and catch their thrills some other way. I mean no offense if you are reading this and this applies to you, but why would someone in their right mind spend hours upon hours thinking up a new virus to spread? It's really upsetting to think that there are poeple like this out there that enjoy causing distress to many other people. Yeah, when you think about it, it's only a computer viral infection. It's not like they are spreading a deadly human virus like HIV or something like that, but still, just the thought of people who do such things irritates me. To me there are better things that these virus spreading idiots can use their somewhat intelligent brains on.


    My Online Resources on Computer Viruses

    For general security information see:

  • IBM's virus warning site
  • Computer Virus Myths
  • Symantec's Anti-Virus ResearchCentre
  • My Additions


    What Are Computer Viruses

    Viruses are special programs that are written to make copies of themselves once they are launched. Similar to human viruses, a computer virus spreads from one computer to another, infecting the user's files as it goes. There are different types of viruses out there. Some viruses are considered to be harmless because all it does is spread from one disk to another. Others however are much bigger that can infect your whole system and maybe even wipe it out. Viruses act in different ways depending upon how the programmer or creator designed them to work.



    What is their Purpose?

    When you think about this question, what is the purpose of a virus, you have to ponder a bit to really think of a good answer. Viruses serve no good purpose, but their so-called mission is to infect as many computers as possible. I think viruses are just created for a good laugh by the creator and their friends.


    Who Creates Them?

    Good question. Wouldn't we like to know. I would like to see what these people look like, just for kicks. I know a few people who have created viruses, but have never sent them out to infect other peoples computers. How do I know these people? Easy, I work at the Department of Information and Computer Sciences and well, a lot of people there know a whole lot about computers. Some of my personal friends are really into computers as well, and I'm sure they have done something similar to creating viruses.



    Why ask why? They just do. I think that they are just completely and amazingly smart that they are bored so they create these things to bring some fun and humor into their lives. I wish I were smart enough to create viruses too. These people must be really smart to do this. I know my friends who have attempted in doing this know a whole lot about computers and programming.



    How do they work?

    Computer viruses only work if you launch them into your hard drive. You do this when you launch an infected program or file from your diskette. You can also get a virus from downloading files from the internet, and then you launch the program. Once the infected file is launched the virus takes effect and starts infecting other files and so forth.



    Famous Viruses

    According to Network Associates Services, the following are the 5 most common viruses:

    1. Cap
    2. Concept
    3. Wazzu
    4. Antiexe
    5. FORM

    Virus Myths

    A lot of people fall victim to the scare of computer viruses being sent through email and what not. The truth of the matter is, these are just myths, in other terms it is a hoax. It is a fact that viruses can't be sent through email, unless there is a file that is sent as an attachment which could be infected. The reason why viruses can't be sent via email is because email is just being read off of the computer, and in order for viruses to take effect, they have to be launched or executed, and by reading email, you are not executing any files, but rather just viewing the files.

    There seems to be a good number of virus hoaxes that are rampant. Symantec gives a list of virus hoaxes for people to read about and familiarize themselves with these names so they don't fall prey to these silly games.


    Some of the common ones that I've heard about is the Win A Holiday, Good Times, and Penpal Greeting. These viruses are not real. It is just being sent to you for fun and a quick scare, but otherwise they are harmless. The only thing they do is take up room in your mail box.

    Significance of the Existence of Computer Viruses

    Computer viruses are as they say, "just like human viruses", only physically safer. Both types of viruses needs a host to survive and can spread rampantly. There are so many different viruses out there that it makes it scary to have a computer that doesn't have virus scan on them.

    Can and will computer viruses become virtual entities sooner or later? Well in my honest opinion, I highly doubt it. We have so many different types of software to detect viruses and clean them before it even infects anything. Virus Scan programs are constantly being upgraded to catch the newest strains of computer viral infection. The only real scare that I've seen is the ongoing messages within email about the Win a Holiday Virus or the Good Times Virus. This is not true. However, I have not witnessed such an event where viruses seemed like and epidemic.


    How People React to Viruses

    Most people are silly. They make such a big fuss over a computer virus, which most times are harmless. People also always blame the computer when something goes wrong. They never stop to think that maybe, just maybe they were the cause of the malfunction. Often times a virus is conjured up and believed to be the main cause of computer to shut down. I just think that this is very silly and all these people need to do is get an Anti-virus progran and run it on their computers. That way, they don't need to worry about if their disks are infected or not, because you can always clean them.


    How My Report is Compared to Others

    I feel that we all learned a lot about computer viruses by doing this report. Also a lot of our email discussions were about computer viruses which proved to be an interesting topic. I don't think that any one of our reports is better than the other mainly because the content is all somewhat similar. Some of the students reports took the stance that computer viruses are really, really bad, while others didn't really seem to be upset about it, but rather thought about the possiblilies of new technology and the power to rid a computer or diskette of such a bad thing. I think that we all a wonderful job in creating this report. With this last report I went a little all out with the background on this page. However, generally speaking all of our pages were very informative and pleasing to look at.


    How my Report can be Useful to Others

    My report can be useful to others who are searching for answers concerning computer viruses. In my report I have links to sites that deal with computer viruses and all of the facts about what they are and how they work. I would urge the many users of the computer and also the future generations to visit my report from time to time to see and learn about the latest viruses and to also get the feel of security. Yeah, viruses are bad things, but there are always solutions to every problem. I think this report is a good referential point for people to come by to learn about hte different types of viruses and how each of them affects the computer differently. The most important thing I feel that others can do to futher my project is to visit the sites that are listed here and educate themselves. Knowledge is Power!



    By doing this report, I have learned a great deal about computer viruses. Before I just took it for granted that I had the means possible to rid my computer of these horrible viruses, but I had no clue as to what they were called or what their potential threat was. My recommendation to others is to really explore all the links as you possibly can to learn about the different types of viruses out there. Some of them are rather intriguing.

    Overall, this class has really taught me a lot about different aspects of the internet. I would highly suggest that others take this course as well because not only do you get the chance to create homepages, but you get to explore new heights you wouldn't be able to in any other course.

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