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French Version

Viruses: Less of a threat, more of a cost!

Computer viruses, although still posing a regular "discomfort", pose little more than that to sophisticated computer users armed with anti-virus software and the ability to download, or update, their virus programs through the Internet. Although there are costs involved in virus protection and removal, actual virus damage has decreased.

In fact, the Internet which has been the feeding ground for viruses, is also the most effective way to fight them! By receiving email warnings or reading virus news, users will know of the virus and its dangers as soon as one of the trusted anti-virus authorities issues the warning. Then they can download an "antidote" from an anti-virus software site.

Today, many analysts believe that viruses are less of a threat than they used to be two years ago, in spite of the increasing number of "outbreaks" and the globality of the attacks.

Besides, there are virus experts today who dissect the virus software and provide us with crucial insights like with the case of "time-bomb" viruses which activate their destructive features on particular dates.

The latest such virus was the Sircam virus, which sneaked into computers amidst the big hype surrounding the Code Red virus that spread like wild fire last summer. Apparently, the Sircam virus is more lethal, and somehow managed to spread just as much without the same publicity! It was set to activate on Tuesday 16 October, supposedly wreaking havoc on infected computers, deleting all files on the hard drive. Although it was estimated that the virus had infected millions of computers, the day passed with very few virus-strike reports; mainly due to the warnings that were issued well in advance and the availability of anti-virus software. It's just a typical example of how good communication and public knowledge of computer viruses limits their destructiveness and may even render them harmless one day! Still, the cost of handling Sircam was huge, with an estimated total of $1.03 billion paid by businesses worldwide.

One of the interesting points very few people mention is that Apple Macintosh users are watching all these outbreaks, feeling quite safe. All of these viruses are PC-based and cannot infect a Macintosh system even if its connected to a PC on the same network.

Of course, data loss on a PC system due to a virus will negatively affect the productivity of Macintosh systems on the same network, therefore, it's in every one's interest to protect that network.

Additionally, if virus writers decide to "aggressively" target Mac systems, then there will be a whole new problem to deal with.

Getting back to the costs of "managing" virus threats, studies show that such costs in the US have already passed the $10 billion mark this year; with a lot of those losses due to lost productivity.

In any case, viruses have been around for two decades now. They're a fact of life for computer users. There was a time when people's understanding of viruses was so limited they thought every malfunction or system failure was a virus attack. Now, thanks to the Internet and the flow of information among users we know when a virus is doing the rounds and how to stop it.

Beirut 15-10-2001
Zeid Nasser
The Star

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