I remember when I first heard about computer viruses.
It was the 1980s and I was working for a small software house. Keith, my manager, showed me an article about the new phenomenon, in Computer Weekly magazine. The concept of computer viruses provoked a long and morose conversation about human nature. Why would anyone want to write a program which would damage other people’s computers? We shook our heads sadly and muttered about how it didn’t make any sense.
But time moves on, and now computer viruses are a fact of life. Thanks to various research projects and police investigations, we now have a good idea why they happen. There are three main reasons.
For the challenge – some saddo, or group of saddos, decides to see if they can upset and frustrate innocent members of the public around the world
For material gain – sometimes people who have shown that they know how to write and distribute viruses can be offered jobs with anti-virus companies, or even with government agencies – and of course some viruses are direct attempts to extort money
To mess up the competition – viruses can be deliberately unleashed to try to damage the computer systems of a rival organisation, be it another company, or a foreign government. It’s thought that these are becoming more common as time goes on, hence the huge numbers of viruses that originate in Russia or China.