Viruses won’t be stopped by tougher laws

Sarah Gordon, virus expert at IBM’s research centre, said that despite calls from the antivirus industry and users for tougher legislation covering the writing and distribution of viruses, this is not the answer and could even do more harm than good.

Speaking at the Virus Bulletin Conference in Orlando, Florida, Gordon said: ‘Given the purported high cost to businesses of virus infections, it is not surprising that some people have looked to the law for help in dealing with this problem.

‘In fact, laws are not non-existent or new, for example, the UK’s 1990 Computer Misuse Act. However, legal intervention shows no positive correlation with the number of viruses in the wild.’

Gordon said she questioned a group of virus writers who are responsible for the majority of the viruses in the around today and that they said laws forbidding the writing of viruses would make no difference to whether they continue to write viruses. Some said the introduction of such laws would even spur them on to write more.

‘Police intervention does not offer a significant deterrent,’ said Gordon.

Even the well-publicised conviction of virus writers such as David Smith for the Melissa virus failed to impact the number of new viruses appearing in the wild, she said.

Gordon added that it is essential to educate children that virus writing is not a ‘cool’ thing to do to prevent a new generation of virus writers developing.

‘We need to show young people the impact of their actions in a virtual community on the real world. That there are businesses and lives that are affected by these actions,’ she said.

‘We need to evaluate the cost effectiveness of issues such as new laws. We already have pretty solid and stable laws for the issues of damage caused by viruses.’

Gordon also said that the perceived view of who the virus writers are is wrong. ?We read in the media that these people are evil, unethical teenagers dressed in black listening to Eminem. The research I have done shows that they are none of these things.

‘They mostly fall in the 14 to 24 age group; they feel that they have a right to write these viruses for several issues, such as political agenda or that the antivirus industry is just trying to make lots of money, and they think that their actions have no effect.’

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