By the time this writing is up, November 3 is already several days (or weeks, maybe) behind. It would seem pointless to talk about that date but this writing serves as a reminder of the significance held by that date: It should be the international antimalware day. Frederick Cohen was still a student at the University of Southern California—of its engineering school, to be precise—when on November 3, 1983 he concluded that he could exploit connected systems using a malicious program.
But one thing remained unsolved for him: Just how quickly the code can execute the task? With a VAX 11/750 system that run on Unix, it took him a full eight-hour work to complete a prototype to show at a weekly security seminar he regularly attended. His lecturer, Leonard Adleman, granted the title of ‘computer virus’ to Cohen’s invention. The thing that today’s world views as something generally harmful to computers were born on that day, which was also the day that we were first introduced to the fight against malware.
The battle, mind you, has been ongoing since that day till this very date. This is why we, all of the computer users in the world, should take and make November 3 as a day to celebrate each year in hope to spread the understanding about what malware is and the ways to take to fight it off.
Cohen’s program spread across systems and gained access to control all of the data and privileges within those systems. His further experiments showed that the code worked in anywhere between 5 to 30 minutes to gain full access into the computers it infected. Professor Adleman noticed the similarity between Cohen’s program and living viruses and the rest is history: the program acquired its moniker, the computer virus.
But the invention raised another question: With the ability to spread and infect, the program should be able to do a lot more so what else can it do and just how dangerous it is? The answer was as ominous as it is today: There are no ideal solutions offered by possible countermeasures. And that was in 1984, which suggests that not a lot has changed ever since. Things are made worse by the fact that systems need to be able to share with one another and this requires information flow. Information flow, in turn, is exactly the means of spreading for computer viruses.
Whenever someone comes up with new protective measures, cyber criminals seem to always find a way to bypass those exact measures. As such, the consequence that comes along with the rise of computer viruses seems to focus on just one thing: fail and repair approach. One should enjoy a technological advancement while being ready for risks to hit. When they do, one should be okay with spending resources to alleviate the results effects.
Prevention of computer viral infection might never reach its perfection despite everything. Even worse, with the viruses continuing on to evolve, the chance to win this cat and mouse game is probably slim to none for us. But by widening education about what computer viruses are in public, we might be able to protect ourselves from the threats. It may not be much, but at least you are capable of anticipating the results and probably the failures. And that is why we need International Antimalware Day to increase awareness.