These wretched viruses

I’m sure most of you reading this by now will have received at least one copy of this MyDoom virus. I get several of these files landing in my inbox every day, and I never know which is MyDoom and which isn’t. A lot of them pretend to be from Microsoft technical support and promising upgrades, etc. Today, in the Guardian’s “Online” supplement, there’s yet another feature on “MyDoom”, which has spread like wildfire and forced SCO to shut its website down. Why this virus was written is not clear - most people think it was a Linux fan trying to get back at SCO, while Bruce Perens suspects that it is a plot by SCO, who he says has lied under oath in court, to discredit the open-source community as part of what he believes is a stock scam. I’ve heard Russia mentioned in all this, and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the author may be a speaker of an obscure language that Linux will deal with, but Windoze won’t (Ukrainian for example). Also, Linux is much less expensive than Windoze and much more within the reach of the eastern European budget. But that’s only a theory.

Two things stick out about this fiasco, however. One is that the practice of “opening” an attachment in an email has to change - at the moment, if you “open” a file, and that file is an executable (ie. a program), it runs it. This is, obviously, a bad idea. The other thing is that some of these viruses are just so big, and the reason has to be because of the huge executable files produced by Microsoft’s compilers. A quite simple program written in Visual C++ can easily run to over 100K in a release version; GCC will put out something like 15K, which is another good reason for Microsoft to base its next OS on BSD (or even Linux) even if it uses a proprietary GUI as Apple did. A few 150K viruses will blow anyone’s Hotmail or even Yahoo quota. It’s these two factors alone which make these virus attacks so damaging.

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