The Future of Viruses: Both Biological and Computer

Guest_Jim_* - March 20, 2012 12:42PM in Bugs / Virus

There are reasons some pieces of computer malware are called viruses, just like influenza and HIV which infect humans. Both biological and computer viruses attack vulnerabilities in whatever they infect and most are then designed to spread, sometimes with mutations. These similarities have security researchers intrigued, such as those at Fortinet’s Threat Research and Response Center.

Though biological viruses are considerably simpler than some computer virus, which can be encrypted and utilize antidebugging techniques, they still have tricks of their own which virus programmers are using as well. For example, HIV targets and attacks the human immune system, thereby making it difficult to defend against HIV and other viruses, and when AIDS is developed, the immune system is essentially destroyed. Several computer viruses will actually disable antivirus programs and give themselves an opening in the firewall, making it impossible to defend the compromised machine from further attacks.

Hackers learning from biological viruses are not the only concern though, with electronic prosthetics and it may be possible to encode a computer virus into DNA. Electronic implants do not always need to connect to an external computer, but occasionally they do, and when this happens they are open to attacks. Also the systems that sequence and store DNA could be vulnerable to a creative attack that encodes a virus into a piece of DNA. It would be like visiting a compromised website and a piece of malware being downloaded and installed while you are there. If a virus was actually written for human biology though, the effects could be quite destructive as our immune systems would have no guaranteed way to protect against the attack, and we do not have restore points.