If had a dollar for every time I haven't had a virus, I'd be a rich man. That's a cynical way of suggesting that the ongoing virus scare isn't quite as serious as we're sometimes told. Despite more than 10 years of waiting for the big one to hit, I've never had a machine die under me, as it were.
As serious as a bad virus attack could be, most of us treat viruses as more of a nuisance than anything else. Who wasn't hit with the "Word Macro" virus? It spread like wildfire, often via "trustworthy" carriers such as software companies. The fact that something comes on a CD doesn't mean that it's free of viruses, just that they're all copied very precisely.
Just this week we've heard a story of a user who kept getting a virus on his system, only to find it infesting a developer's CD from a well-known vendor. In the bad old days quite a few of the disk duplicators in Australia were guilty of putting viruses on the disks they were duplicating, or at least not ensuring that the customer had handed over a clean original.
It's been a common view amongst a proportion of the industry that not all viruses were what they were supposed to be . . . that many so-called viruses existed only as a virus signature and nowhere in the wild. The fact that they weren't real made no difference as, once one company was supposedly checking for the virus, all the others had to follow suit.
Some virus checkers were even accused of detecting the fact that they were being tested against a standard list of viruses, so they bypassed the full checking routine and gave a seemingly perfect result, very quickly.
Is that my code in your pocket?
There's an interesting fight going on at the moment between two well-known antivirus software manufacturers, Symantec and McAfee. Symantec has accused McAfee of having considerable chunks of Symantec code in McAfee products such as PC Medic 97 (from Symantec's Norton CrashGuard).
Then just a couple of weeks ago Symantec issued a statement saying "McAfee [has] admitted that Symantec code is actually present in its flagship product . . . [which] compounds McAfee's earlier admission that it had engaged in copying of the core functionality of Symantec's CrashGuard product, and had inserted it into its own PC Medic product." Symantec also said McAfee employees may have engaged in illegal destruction of evidence relevant to the ongoing dispute.
Reacting to this and to rumours it had tried to buy its way out of the problem, McAfee then came back with a $US1 billion defamation and trade libel suit, saying Symantec blatantly lied about the facts." McAfee said it never admitted that Symantec code is present in its product, but rather that its product contained non-functional code "found in the public domain".
To follow this fascinating story, visit:www.mcafee.com and www.symantec.com.