The Good Virus???
I think there's actually a positive note to take from the recent
(August 2003) Blaster virus. [It caused countless thousands
of computers to reboot and threatened to bombard Microsoft's
"Windows Update" website with spurious requests, ostensibly
hoping to shut it down. For a nice technical page on what it
was programmed to do, see http://f-secure.com/v-descs/msblast.shtml.]
Despite the enormous potential damage that could have been
done, the author chose to make the virus do nothing but an incredibly
powerful demonstration... that someone could run the ultimate
system-level command—shutdown—on my computer. As
for the denial of service attack, I don't know what damage might
have occurred from that.
My point isn't to quibble over what constitutes "damage"
but to say that I feel the greater evil is the flaw in the operating
system, not the recent perpetrator. For most of us, myself included,
the knee-jerk reaction is to regard the author as some kind
of monster, but if you think about it he or she proved to be
quite the opposite. In the long run they will probably have
helped protect us all from much worse people, hopefully with
little harm done. Imagine if those who truly hate us were as
smart. I, for one, say thank you.
As for usability, there are some lessons to learn. Bearing
in mind Bellis's First Law of Usability (from Resources/"Computers
For every computer problem, even hardware problems, there
is a corresponding improvement waiting to be done to the design
of the software or user interface. It is not your fault...
the problem is not ‘user error!
... I see two usability flaws highlighted by the recent virus:
- My longstanding assertion that Windows' Task Manager/Processes
list (not the Apps list) should display the Manufacturer and
Program for every process. This would let me kill processes
that I don't believe I started.
- The existence of the Windows Registry. There's no solution
for this other than competition and we know what's happened
to that. For those who aren't aware, the Windows Registry,
although it purports to help provide an integrated, well-managed
system (ala Macintosh), is really a means to keep control
of our computers out of our hands. That's the reality, whether
you like my politics or not. It may be what puts Linux over
the top soon.
So take heart, all is not evil in the world, even people smart
enough to write viruses are not necessarily villains. And no,
it's not me; I'm still trying to figure out how to get Windows
not to change from "Explore" mode to folder mode every
time I search for a file.