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 general public appreciates computer viruses as something
inherently bad. It is also considering several of the proposed models of 'beneficial' viruses and points out the
problems in them. A set of conditions is listed, which every virus that claims to be beneficial must conform to. At last,
a realistic model using replication techniques for beneficial purposes is proposed and directions are given in which
this technique can be improved further.
The paper also demonstrates that the main reason for the 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...