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2.2. Antivirus Defense Development

Initially, developing antivirus software programs was not difficult. In the late '80s and early '90s, many individuals were able to create some sort of antivirus program against a particular form of a computer virus.

Frederick Cohen proved that antivirus programs cannot solve the computer virus problem because there is no way to create a single program that can detect all future computer viruses in finite time. Regardless of this proven fact, antivirus programs have been quite successful in dealing with the problem for a while. At the same time, other solutions have been researched and developed, but computer antivirus programs are still the most widely used defenses against computer viruses at present, regardless of their many drawbacks, including the inability to contend with and solve the aforementioned problem.

Perhaps under the delusion that they are experts on computer viruses, some security analysts state that any sort of antivirus program is useless if it cannot find all the new viruses. However, the reality is that without antivirus programs, the Internet would be brought to a standstill because of the traffic undetected computer viruses would generate.

Often we do not completely understand how to protect ourselves against viruses, but neither do we know how to reduce the risk of becoming infected by them by adopting proper hygiene habits. Unfortunately, negligence is one of the biggest contributors to the spread of computer viruses. The sociological aspects of computer security appear to be more relevant than technology. Carelessly neglecting the most minimal level of computer maintenance, network security configuration, and failing to clean an infected computer opens up a Pandora's box that allows more problems to spread to other computers.

In the early phases of virus detection and removal, computer viruses were easily managed because very few viruses existed (there were fewer than 100 known strains in 1990). Computer virus researchers could spend weeks analyzing a single virus alone. To make life even easier, computer viruses spread slowly, compared to the rapid proliferation of today's viruses. For example, many successful boot viruses were 512 bytes long (the size of the boot sector on the IBM PC), and they often took a year or longer to travel from one country to another. Consider this: The spread time at which a computer virus traveled in the past compared to today's virus spread time is analogous to comparing the speed of message transfer in ancient times, when messengers walked or ran from city to city to deliver parcels, with today's instant message transfer, via e-mail, with or without attachments.

Finding a virus in the boot sector was easy for those who knew what a boot sector was; writing a program to recognize the infection was tricky. Manually disinfecting an infected system was a true challenge in and of itself, so creating a program that automatically removed viruses from computers was considered a tremendous achievement. Currently, the development of antivirus and security defense systems is deemed an art form, which lends itself to cultivating and developing a plethora of useful skills. However, natural curiosity, dedication, hard work, and the continuous desire to learn often supersede mere hobbyist curiosity and are thus essential to becoming a master of this artistic and creative vocation.

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