The key to Success in the fight against Viruses

© Robert Vibert (1995)

A recent telephone conversation with a computer professional drove home a point that many are slowing discovering – prevention is worth far more than a remedy.

This computer professional had a nightmare disaster on his hands – over 150,000 documents had been infected with the Concept macro virus, the latest plague from virus authors. This professional and his team had already spent more than one week of 12 hour days combatting the virus, using whatever tool they could get their hands on. The cost of this clean-up operation? Thousands of dollars in direct labour costs and thousands more in lost opportunity costs.

When calculations are made for lost time and productivity due to a clean-up operation, an investment in preventative measures is quickly seen as very sound. This is doubly so when we consider the rising incidents of virus infections.

Of more than 1,290 participants in the third annual InformationWeek/Ernst & Young Information Security Survey (1995), nearly half said they suffered a financial loss related to information security in the last two years. Although viruses have stopped grabbing newspaper headlines, nearly 70% of survey respondents say their companies have suffered a serious virus attack in the last year, up from 54% two years ago.

RCMP statistics for 1995 showed the same trend upwards. In all of 1994, 345 virus incidents were reported. In the first half of 1995, 561 incidents were reported. If the same number are reported to the end of 1995, that would bring the 1995’s total to 1122, an increase of over 200%.

Cleaning up after an infection is just not the solution anymore. Time and technical resources are in tight supply and will only get harder to come by. A well-planned prevention scheme will reduce dramatically the clean-up bills by stopping known viruses from infecting in the first place.

Stopping the infect, clean-up, re-infect, clean-up again cycle is key to making the most of any investment in Anti-Virus technology. Prevention is the only way that we can ensure that time, effort, and scarce resources are not squandered on old approaches to dealing with computer viruses.

Effective prevention includes the use, where possible, of DOS TSR programs and VxD (Virtual Device Driver) in Windows 3.x, 95 and NT to monitor and stop viruses from entering PCS. Obviously, to ensure that these modules are used, they must be unobtrusive as much as possible – not occupying excessive RAM memory or causing intolerable speed degradation.

Judicious use of high quality preventative Anti-Virus products can save time, resources and money.