Computer Viruses: Infection Vectors, and Feasibility of Complete Protection


A computer virus is a program which, after being loaded into a
computer\'s memory, copies itself with the purpose of spreading to other
computers.
Most people, from the corporate level power programmer down to the
computer hobbyist, have had either personal experience with a virus or know
someone who has. And the rate of infection is rising monthly. This has caused a
wide spread interest in viruses and what can be done to protect the data now
entrusted to the computer systems throughout the world.
A virus can gain access to a computer system via any one of four
vectors:
1. Disk usage: in this case, infected files contained on a diskette
(including, on occasion, diskettes supplied by software
manufacturers) are loaded, and used in a previously uninfected
system thus allowing the virus to spread.
2. Local Area Network: a LAN allows multiple computers to share the
same data, and programs. However, this data sharing can allow
a virus to spread rapidly to computers that have otherwise been
protected from external contamination.
3. Telecommunications: also known as a Wide Area Network, this
entails the connection of computer systems to each other via
modems, and telephone lines. This is the vector most feared
by computer users, with infected files being rapidly passed
along the emerging information super-highway, then downloaded
from public services and then used, thus infecting the new system.
4. Spontaneous Generation: this last vector is at the same time
the least thought of and the least likely. However, because
virus programs tend to be small, the possibility exists that
the code necessary for a self-replicating program could be
randomly generated and executed in the normal operation of
any computer system.

Even disregarding the fourth infection vector, it can be seen that the
only way to completely protect a computer system is to isolate it from all
contact with the outside world. This would include the user programming all of
the necessary code to operate the system, as even commercial products have been
known to be shipped already infected with viruses.
In conclusion, because a virus can enter a computer in so many different
ways, perhaps the best thing to do is more a form of damage control rather than
prevention. Such as, maintain current backups of your data, keep your original
software disks write-protected and away from the computer, and use a good Virus
detection program.

Outline Thesis: Complete protection of a computer system from viruses is not
possible, so efforts should be concentrated on recovery rather than prevention.
I. Introduction, with definition.
A. Define Computer Virus.
B. Define interest group.
C. Define problem. II. Discus the ways that a virus can infect a
computer.
A. Disk exchange and use.
B. Local Area Network.
C. Telecommunications also known as Wide Area Network.
D. Spontaneous Generation. III. Summarize threat, and alternatives.
A. Must isolate from outside world.
B. Must write own programs.
C. Propose alternative of damage control.

Sources Cited

Burger, Ralf. Computer Viruses and Data Protection. Grand Rapids:
Abacus, 1991.

Fites, Philip, Peter Johnston, and Martin Kratz. The Computer Virus
Crisis. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989: 6-81.

McAfee, John, and Colin Haynes. Computer Viruses, Worms, Data
Diddlers, Killer Programs, and Other Threats to Your System.
New York: St. Martin\'s Press, 1989: i-195.

Roberts, Ralph. Computer\'s Computer Viruses. Greensboro: Computer
Publications, Inc., 1988: 29-82

Category: Technology