Sometimes life holds great surprises for us in the form of ‘punch in the face’. One of the recent ones I got was when I re-rediscovered (yes I discovered it three times :P) that all the mathematical modeling that we have learnt to do is well, in a way useless when it comes to computer viruses.
OK, well that’s not totally true. I am taking a course on Mathematical Biology and turns out that of all the models that we have studied so far on population growth; none of them can mimic computer viruses. The evils of the cyber world seriously fail to obey laws from the natural world.
Take the simplest of examples, the HIV 1 virus, a retro virus, which is a very special kind of virus that basically screws up your immune system is not as half as harmful as a computer virus. A computer virus is the most mysterious entity of the cyber world. It is living while being dead, and yet it never dies.
‘Paradoxical?’ Not really, unlike common biological pathogens, cyber pathogens do not die. However they are not always active either (hence called dead). Computer Viruses give no guarantee of when they will spring up and wreak havoc on your system. To put this pointless rambling in some direction, computer viruses are catastrophic in the sense that to remove one, you must remove it from all infected regions.
Now for biological systems when we encounter such a thing we normally fail to defeat it, like in cancer, when angiogenisis ( arterial growth) causes a cancer to become spread, its really really hard for us to fight that cancer.
And in our success in our efforts to defeat such viruses is where we have gained supremacy over the real world. Anti Virus makers all over the world have developed new techniques of combating these computer virus threats that I think need to be analysed by modern day biologists. Unlike Biological brute force treatments like chemo therapy and gamma ray treatment, anti virus makers have stealthy ways of cleansing your systems.
I think a new branch of mathematics needs to be developed that can provide succinct support to the anti virus makers. Current modeling falls catastrophically short of providing any insight on how to combat such spreading patterns or on how to remove such increasingly complicated viruses.
Also biologists should seriously consider taking a look at the modern techniques being adopted, despite the sharp contrasts that give computer viruses an edge over biological viruses, some serious headway may be made in countering diseases were people to try some of these radical ideas as they are what are holding the gates to your computer tightly shut against harmful intruders, which are ever diverse, ever cunning and much more versatile then your common biological viruses.
As more and more dependence increases on computers, new sciences will be necessary that deal with different aspects of computer security, something that is till now an art, hopefully shall someday become a science.