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Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security

Some Comments on Computer Viruses

Saumil Shah

Sep 06, 1996

Abstract

Computer viruses are a nuisance to the computer community in general, and from time to time, they are responsible for a lot of damage, loss of production and data loss. Protection from computer viruses is an issue which has never been well-defined, in terms of theory; it has always been a trial and error game. A never ending race is going on between virus writers and vaccine writers, with virus writers coming up with newer techniques to fool the vaccines.

Viruses have always been a threat to the PC user community, where the operating system of the PC does not have any security features. In absence of security features, it becomes very hard to deploy virus protection schemes.

Topics that are covered in this talk are:

  • Virus basics - what they are, what they are *not*, how they function
  • Microscopic analysis of viruses
  • Macroscopic analysis of viruses (also termed as computer virus Epidemiology)
  • Lessons to be learnt from epidemiology
  • A simplified epidemiology case-study

An important issue that I would like to discuss in this seminar is the relevance of computer virus epidemiology in the process of designing virus protection strategies, by taking analogies with human diseases.

Contents of this talk are based on my personal observations in the field, and the conclusions that I have drawn from my observations.

(Note from Spaf: Saumil is author of The Anitvirus Book, to be published by Tata-McGraw Hill in India.)



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