Friday, 1 June 2012

This Computer is Dead [it must be a virus]

I've dug up an old copy of Amstrad Action (issue no.85, October 1992) which has quite a funny letter from a reader in its technical forum section. You can see a scan of the letter below:


This is a really good example of the kind of paranoia users get into. It also probably reflects what was being touted around the media at the time. Earlier in 1992, the Michelangelo virus had caused a bit of a media storm after some hardware and software manufacturers accidentally shipped infected products.

I can't find any reference on the web to the German Amstrad CPC virus referred to, but I do remember seeing some CPCs in Dixons in Scarborough in about 1990 which had some kind of anarchistic screen displayed saying it had been hacked, which as a kid I found pretty cool. Someone had obviously sneaked in and loaded it up on the machines while the salesmen weren't looking.

Anyway, fast forward to today and we find this ludicrous - why were users jumping to conclusions about viruses on a machine like the CPC? Similar events are happening today - users seem to jump to extremes - either they ignore the possibility completely that they have clicked on something bad and are now part of a botnet or, at the other end of the scale (like the guy above), that because their computer is running slowly or broken, it must absolutely be a virus. This also extends to either the misplaced notion that Apple machines are immune to malware or that Android devices are riddled with maliciousness. Both incorrect views, but popular ones (and perpetuated by the media in many cases). 

Users need independent trusted sources of honest advice and that isn't necessarily found in those who have a vested interest in selling a fix to them.

2 comments:

  1. That's funny - that letter was written by me, aged 8! I remember being excited that my letter had been printed, and taking it into school to show my friends.
    Of course, it wasn't a virus, but back then they were very scary things that most of the general public knew nothing about (and still don't).
    Incidentally, the magazine's response was correct - the cartridge had been knocked and was not properly connected. Good old AA!

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    1. Excellent! Thanks for popping up and saying hello! I'm very interested in things like this - you are right that people still don't have a clue (and never will), but the media love a good scare story to sell papers and get hits on their sites. A friend in the media told me that his fellow tech journalists would try to get Apple into the title of any story to get their hit rates up! The anti-virus industry also don't do themselves any favours, stoking up threats on platforms that have virtually no issues.

      By the way, my favourite issue of AA was when they gave away the Elite tape on the front cover!

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