Viruses 101

Anti-Virus Software

The Role of CERT

Legal Implications

Social Impact

The Future

Before 1988, the word "virus" had a strictly biological meaning. In that year, Robert Morris wrote and released the first "Internet worm", forcing everyone in the computer community to immediately consider this new electronic threat. While Morris created his virus to demonstrate a security flaw in ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet, today's virus writers often have a more malicious intent. The Internet today spans the globe and serves billions of users, providing an environment in which a single virus can conceivably cause rapid and widespread damage to systems throughout the world. Our project will look at this risk while exploring five primary topics: an overview of the major types of viruses and how they function, an analysis of how anti-virus software works, the role of CERT and private anti-virus response teams in fighting the virus threat, the legal implications of writing and spreading computer viruses, and the social impact of the creation and propagation of computer viruses.

The most prevalent type of virus today is the e-mail worm, which often exploits security flaws in major e-mail programs. While there are a number of effective anti-virus software packages on the market to deal with this problem, many casual computer users do not use them. Most anti-virus response teams also take a reactive approach to combating viruses, dealing with new threats as they appear. In the legal arena, while the United States has laws punishing virus writers, the framework is less defined internationally. This makes it difficult to prosecute international virus authors. As the Internet expands its reach into more and more homes and viruses inevitably spread more rapidly, computer users have an increasing responsibility to be aware of these issues and their impact on the global computer community.

This project brought to you by Sha Sha Chu, Brendan Dixon, Peter Lai, Darren Lewis, and Camila Valdes for Eric Roberts' CS201 class.
Website constructed by Sha Sha Chu, with the design shamelessly modeled after www.theforce.net.