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On Computer Viruses and Viruses

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Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert, posted in his blog new findings of a powerful worm that is silently spreading through the internet. Technically, a worm is a virus that crawls the internet infecting hosts and moving to others, just like last week’s flu virus. It is believed that the Storm Worm infected from 1 to 50 million computers and no remedy was found to “kill” it or stop its spread. Storm is 3-in-1 computer application: it is a worm, a trojan horse and a bot. Some of its characteristics are:

  • it attacks and then shuts off for a certain amount of time. Just like herpes.

  • not every host spreads the worm, some hosts only receive orders

  • your computer is not damaged, no performance impact. Just like a cold virus.

  • it is like bittorrent or Kazaa, it is peer-to-peer. Just like any virus.

  • its code mutates every 30 minutes. Just like any virus might (maybe not every 30 min)

  • Storm can be spread by different forms. Have you heard of any virus with multiple infection strategies? Yes, I guess so.

It is the old cliche of life imitating … No it is not. It is normal evolution. the first computer viruses (virii) simply destroy a machine, with nasty consequences making any recovery impossible and maybe not spreading further. It is just like a new virus. Think Ebola. When it was first released in the human population it killed in a matter of days and maybe when the host died, the virus died too. When was the last time you heard that someone was killed by a cold? How many people worldwide are infected by the cold virus annually?

At the same time that Tiago pointed here and here about the genome stability, what about the code stability of this highly technological computer viruses? Would they achieve a point where every computer in the world, at least the ones connected to the internets, would be infected by a virus like this with no “symptom”? Would we have “good” computer viruses (virii) that would be like the bacteria in our gut?

Tiago was looking, if I haven’t misinterpreted him, for the perfect genome, maybe the minimal one, where all the needs of an individual to adapt to an ever changing environment are contained in one solution. Maybe a virus has the perfect genome, as everything superfluous is removed and if it “needs” to change, it can get some extra genes and DNA from the hosts.

Maybe the Stormworm is the perfect computer program, or it is just the beginning to solve NP-complete problems.