A critical evaluation of the destructive impact of computer viruses on files stored by personal computer users.

Weideman, M.

Published Online

Weideman, M. 1994. A critical evaluation of the destructive impact of computer viruses on files stored by personal computer users. Unpublished Masters Thesis, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town.

Computer virus programs are generally perceived to be a threat to the information stored by computer users. This research evaluated the impact computer viruses have on information stored by computer users. The emphasis was on the effects of computer viruses rather than on the detail of their operation. The main hypotheses involved the question of whether or not computer viruses do pose a threat to the information stored by computer users. The effect of computer viruses on the information of users in industry was measured by sending a questionnaire to 388 companies country-wide. &~ average of 2l,5% of the respondents claimed detrimental effects to information stored on disk due to computer viruses. This and other data was used to guide laboratory experiments on the actual damage done by computer viruses to stored information. A set of test disks was prepared to represent programs and data of a typical PC user in industry. Fifteen different virus programs were used individually to infect the test disks. After each infection, all the test disks were inspected to ascertain damage to data, system and program files as well as to separate disk sectors. The research established that: The damage done by computer viruses to stored information is generally limited to one file or disk area. Where damage to stored information did occur, it was often reversible. Irrational user responses to virus symptoms provide a large potential source for damage to stored information. The availability of master program disks (for program file restoration) and recent, validated data backup is essential to recovery from a computer virus infection. A user can solve most problems caused by virus infections if he has a basic understanding of disk structure, i.e. tracks, sectors, sides, the FAT, etc, and of the use of disk utility programs like Norton Utilities or PCTools. The fact that some of the findings of prominent virus researchers could not be verified, suggests that virus programs could be unstable. Claims regarding the damage inflicted by viruses must be considered to be valid only for a specific copy of the virus under discussion. The importance of using original application software (to minimize the transfer of viruses and to enable program file restoration) , regular back-ups (to enable data file restoration) and basic user awareness (infection prevention, symptoms, the use of anti-viral and utility programs, etc.) was emphasized. The average PC user should be able to clear up a virus infection without assistance by following the given disinfection procedure. Suggestions for further study include virus origins, generations, mutations, multiple infections, and the effect of viruses on computer networks.
  1. Anon 1990. (a). The Argus. Supplement to Weekend Argus, Computer Virus Clinic, 5 May. Cape Town.
  2. Anon 1990. (b). PC Magazine. Top Ten Sellers - A Five-Week History, 26 June.
  3. Anon 1991. Bit Magazine. The Real Virus Story, December 1990!January 1991.
  4. Back, D.B. et al. 1993. Computer Viruses: Over 300 Threats to Microcomputing ... And Still Growing. Journal of Systems Management, 8 - 13. February.
  5. Bradford, M. 1988. Computer Viruses Pose Business Peril. Business Insurance, 24, July 18.
  6. Brown, J. 1993. Manufacturers team up to beat virus programs. Computer Weekly, 19, March 4.
  7. Brunner, John. 1975. The Shockwave Rider. New York, Ballantine.
  8. Cascarino, R. 1989. Computer security. Unpublished lecture delivered at The Institute of Internal Auditor's Seminar on computer viruses, 22 November, constantia, Cape Town.
  9. Cullen, Scott W. 1989. The Computer Virus: Is There a Real Panacea? The O ffice, 43 - 46, March.
  10. Daly, James. 1993. virus hunters look to Mac operating system. Computerworld, 38, May 10. J.C. 1992. New Stealth Viruses: A Menace to PC Magazine, 93, A pril 14.
  11. Elmer-DeWitt, P. 1988. Invasion of the Data Snatchers. Time Magazine, 56 - 64, 26 September.
  12. Evans, D. 1993. virus-selling IT boss says 'I'm innocent'. Computer Weekly, 1, March 18.
  13. Francis, F. 1989. Do Computer Viruses Pose a Threat ? Bank Administration, 6 - 10, January. Dvorak, Users. Palca, 'virus' . J. 1988. Networked Computers hit by intelligent Nature, 336,97, November 10.
  14. Frost, D. 1989. The Complete Computer Virus Handbook. P i t m a n ,
  15. Highland, H.J.H. 1989. Random Bits & Bytes. Computers & Security, 8 (1), II - U.
  16. Highland, H.J.H. 1992. Random Bits & Bytes: Michelangelo Part 1. Computers & Security, 11 (3), 200 - 209.
  17. Highland, H.J.H. 1993. Random Bits & Bytes: Virus Redux 1. Computers & Security, 12 (1), 4 - 14.
  18. Highland, H.J.H. 1989. Random Bits & Bytes: The Internet Worm... Continued. Computers & Security, 8 (6), 460 - 478.
  19. Hoffman, P.M. 1993. Virus Information Summary List. Version VSUM 9309, September 30. Downloaded from CompuServe.
  20. Jones, M.C. et al. 1993. Perceptions of computer viruses: a cross-cultural assessment. Computers & Security, 12 (2), 191 - 197.
  21. Joyce, E.J. 1988. Software Viruses: PC-Health Enemy Number One. Datamation, 27 - 30, October 15.
  22. Kane, P. 1989. V .I.R.U.S. Protection - V ital Information Resources Under Siege. Bantam Books, June.
  23. Koo, S.H. 1991. Identifying the Computer Virus Problem: College Students' Perceptions.
  24. Mantelman, L. 1989. British Rail takes the steam out of a virus. Data communications International, 33 - 34, April.
  25. Pozzo, M.D. 1990. Towards Computer Virus Prevention (Malicious Code, Trojan Horse) .
  26. Radai, Y. 1989. The Israeli PC virus. Computers & Security, 8 (2), 111 - 113.
  27. Schoch, J.F . & Hupp, J.A ., 1982. The "Worm" Programs Early Experience with a Distributed Computation. Communications of the ACM, 25 (3), 172 - 180.
  28. Solomon, A. 1989. computer Viruses. Paper delivered at the ICIS Conference on Computer Viruses. Eskom College, Midrand, Johannesburg, 23 November.
  29. Solomon, A. Program Manual, 1989. Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit. version 4.25, 11 - 13, S&S Computers.
  30. Solomon, A. 1992. Computers & Security, The virus Authors Strike Back. ll(7) , 602 - 606.
  31. Spafford, S.H. The Internet Worm Program: An Analysis. Purdue University Technical Report CSD-TR-823, 19, 44, 45.
  32. Van Solms, B. 1989. Computer Viruses. Unpublished lecture delivered at The Institute of Internal Auditor's Seminar on Computer Viruses. Constantia, Cape Town, 22 November.
  33. Van Wyk, K.R. 1989. The Lehigh Virus. Computers & Security, 8 (2), 107 - 109.
  34. Watkins, S. 1993. Cop calls for help in virus battle. Computing, 7, March 4.
  35. Whitmyer, Claude F. 1989. More Protection Programs Than There Are Viruses. The Office, 28, August.
  36. Whitmyer, Claude F. 1989. Computer Viruses: the Potential for Damage Exists. The Office, 24, December.
  37. Zajac, B.P. Jr. Computer Viral Risks - How Bad is the Threat ? Computers & Security, 11 (1), 29 - 34.
Full text of Thesis No 0153: A critical evaluation of the destructive impact of computer viruses on files stored by personal computer users.

Digital Library with full-text of academic publications on website visibility, usability, search engines, information retrieval

Back to Home page