and what is more, some of your disks are infected with a virus
Thus spoke the SCA virus, the premiere Amiga virus from 1987, hitting just as the US media was growing aware of this idea of a computer virus. The world had already seen Yul Brynner go haywire in Westworld from a some contagious malfunction, seen the likes of Elk Cloner on Apple IIs (the program with a personality) and the Friday the 13th virus on DOS systems. Compute! magazine was a major 8 bit computer magazine of the 1980s, and also did a lot of Compute!'s Guide to books, including many on video games like the Genesis and NES. In 1988, the editors thought a book on computer viruses was topical.
This books is about 250 pages of Sheer Terror. Its boring, but terrifying.
The book has interviews talking about the horror of computer viruses, descriptions of the lowlife scum that write virus programs, how they work in general terms, lots of reviews of programs to protect yourself with, and some writeups of notable viruses to date. The names of McAfee and Norton are already prominent. In an era when "the National BBS Association reports 39 known viruses (most on the IBM PCs and compatibles but even Atari systems had one or two), it did not seem like time to ring the church bell, but terror is spread throughout. If you would like a little journey through boot sector viruses and trojans of the day of 20 megabyte hard drives and 300 baud modems, here you go. Is it prescient of our modern world? Or just alarmist?
Here are some snippets:
- "Millions of characters of information irretrievably gone and only thing left in return is an infantile message"
"The destructive rampages of these terrible little hidden programs from sick minds are not limited to high risk users who download indiscriminately from pirate electronic bulletin boards"
"There have been numerous instances where a programmer who quit or was fired from a large company left a [computer logic] bomb in the system"
"Computer data storage is a lot more vulnerable than most people realize. The problem of viruses aside, there are still numerous operator errors and equipment malfunctions that can scramble the contents of a floppy disk or even an entire 20 megabyte hard drive in less than a second!"
"The thought of a virus loose in computers that have anything at all to do with nuclear power plants is very unsettling".
"Imagine the sudden shutdown of all air traffic control, medical computers monitoring and running life support systems malfunctioning, financial networks penniless in the blink of an eye, widespread destruction of government and business records, [cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria]. We are now a computerized society at all levels and thus particularly vulnerable to viruses."
"Tomorrow, you have no bank account. The morning after that, all the traffic lights in New York City lock on red. That afternoon an atomic power plant melts down. Viruses are serious stuff. The only good virus is a dead virus".
Between belaboring how vulnerable we are, it tosses in that we should definately fear the kids...
"Any bad kid can whip up a working [computer logic] bomb in an evening's time and slide it into almost any program..."
"right now, its summer. A lot of university students are probably at home now concocting their favorite viruses. So when they come back in September, I suspect there will be an increase in infections [smirk]. Its a nice, interesting, fun hobby for some people. "
As a postscript, the Commodore 64, which did not use a boot disk or have a hard drive, actually had a virus. The BHP virus was written because someone said it couldn't be done. It actually hooked into the disk drive memory, which had its own DOS and RAM. When the C64 main unit was shut down (stock units have no reset button), the 1541 disk drive only got a reset, -- which did not wipe out the virus in memory. The solution was as simple as turning off power to both the C64 and the disk drive. I don't know how you cleaned infected diskettes though. Sucks if you just lost The Great American novel on your 5 1/4 floppy.