Are "Good" Computer Viruses Still A Bad Idea?

Research Associate
Virus Test Center
University of Hamburg
Vogt-Koelln-Str. 30, 22527 Hamburg, Germany [Editor's note: Vesselin's
current email address is]

During the past six years, computer viruses have caused unaccountable amount of
damage - mostly due to loss of time and resources. For most users, the term
"computer virus" is a synonym of the worst nightmares that can happen on their
system. Yet some well-known researchers keep insisting that it is possible to
use the replication mechanism of the viral programs for some useful and
beneficial purposes.

This paper is an attempt to summarize why exactly the ...

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conflict between those
supporting the idea of a "beneficial virus" and those opposing it, is that the
two sides are assuming a different definition of what a computer virus is.

1. What Is a Computer Virus?

The general public usually associates the term "computer virus" with a small,
nasty program, which aims to destroy the information on their machines. As usual,
the general public's understanding of the term is incorrect. There are many
kinds of destructive or otherwise malicious computer programs and computer
viruses are only one of them. Such programs include backdoors, logic bombs,
trojan horses and so on [Bontchev94]. Furthermore, many computer viruses are not
intentionally destructive - they simply display a message, play a tune, or even
do nothing noticeable at all. The important thing, however, is that even those
not intentionally destructive viruses are not harmless - they are causing a lot
of damage in the sense of time, money and resources spent to remove them ...

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program as a host.

Another, much more serious problem with Dr. Cohen's definition is that it is too
broad to be useful for practical purposes. In fact, his definition classifies as
"computer viruses" even such cases as a compiler which is compiling its own
source, a file manager which is used to copy itself, and even the program
DISKCOPY when it is on diskette containing the operating system - because it can
be used to produce an exact copy of the programs on this diskette.

In order to understand the reason of the above problem, we should pay attention
to the goal for which Dr. Cohen's definition has been developed. His goal has
been to prove several interesting theorems about the ...

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Are "Good" Computer Viruses Still A Bad Idea?. (2005, February 12). Retrieved April 5, 2020, from
"Are "Good" Computer Viruses Still A Bad Idea?.", 12 Feb. 2005. Web. 5 Apr. 2020. <>
"Are "Good" Computer Viruses Still A Bad Idea?." February 12, 2005. Accessed April 5, 2020.
"Are "Good" Computer Viruses Still A Bad Idea?." February 12, 2005. Accessed April 5, 2020.
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Added: 2/12/2005 01:04:00 AM
Category: Computers
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 4796
Pages: 18

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