The Effect Viruses Can Have

The idea for this post came from a news article I read about how Mitsubishi Heavy, a defence firm, had found viruses on their servers. This lead me to remember other things that I know about viruses. I find the idea that a virus can have an impact on hardware very mind boggling. The potential threat that comes from this is even greater because of the volume of devices that use software.

I used to believe that the worst that can happen if my computer was infested with a virus would be that I have to re-install my operating system. Turns out I am very wrong. I was talking to some friends about the effect that viruses can have on your personal computer. One friend of mine is very interested in computer systems and knows a lot about them. He talked about how the device driver for the hardware in any computer is still just software. Because Microsoft Windows is such a user friendly operating system the drivers can be changed. Therefore, obviously, a third party program can access the device drivers which means that potentially a virus can have an effect on the computer’s hardware by manipulating the device drivers. I found some of the outcomes of driver viruses quit alarming. For instance, it has been reported that a virus accessed a hard disk drive, modified the turning speed of the disc to such a high rpm that the disc shuttered and, as you may have seen on Mythbusters, this caused shrapnel to fly out of the hard disc drive going at lethal velocities. I am not sure of anybody was injured during that event, but I can imagine that if a person was close to the computer it would be easy to get hurt under those circumstances.

The other aspect of viruses that I found very scary is that a while ago it was noted that a certain virus had set itself in the controller for the cooling system of a nuclear power plant in a Middle Eastern country. This virus could cause the cooling system to shut down and, thus, ensuring nuclear meltdown. This action, however, had to be triggered by an external input which is why that it was common belief that this virus was intended for a terrorist attack. In fact, it was discovered that this virus had been distributed to a great number of nuclear power plants, but was coded in such a way that it could only affect the power plants in the particular Middle Eastern country. The next crazy thing that was in that report was that this virus could be found on the internet, in its basic coding, and downloaded. The downloader would then be able to modify the code for their individual purpose, in fact it was said that there even were tutorials about how to code the software for certain applications.

I find it a very scary thought that software distributed over the internet could have physical, far reaching effects on the individual used of a personal computer as well as being able to shut down cooling mechanisms of nuclear power plants. The reason why this is strange is because software is just machine coding, similar to what the voice for the us is. However, when voice is used properly it can have drastic outcomes, which is also true for the impact software can have.

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