Computer bugs mirror human viruses, researchers say
Computer viruses mirror their human
equivalents in the way they behave, are structured and even in the
threat they pose, according to research published today.
After a year-long investigation, medical and
technology experts believe they have discovered parallels between the
two types of viruses which could help in the fight against them.
McAfee AntiVirus Technology Consultant Jack
Clark and Dr Rod Daniels of the National Institute of Medical Research
identified several similarities.
They include the fact that both types of
virus follow similar patterns of infection - both circumnavigate the
globe from east to west following the sun.
Anti-virus software and human immune systems
also work in a similar way, learning from exposure to viruses to fight
off new types, the researchers found.
Just as a 10-year-old personal computer with
decade-old virus software would not last five minutes against today's
viruses, a human from the Victorian era would be rapidly infected if
transported to the modern day.
Both types of virus have analogous
structures, being made up of large numbers of very simple basic
building blocks put together in strings to produce a complex 'organism'.
And just as the internet has caused a massive
increase in the threat from computer viruses, medics are facing a
similar threat from the rise in international air travel.
It is estimated that in the UK more than 150 million work days are lost each year to flu at a cost of $A18.38 billion.
Similarly, the total global cost of computer
viruses in lost productivity and clean-up expenses was an estimated
$A19.06 billion in 2001.
The study found medical researchers had a
worldwide industry standard procedure for categorising the threat from
new viruses to help them prioritise their work and alert the public and
the medical community.
The computer anti-virus industry, on the
other hand, did not have an internationally recognised system, which
often resulted in mixed messages from the industry and confusion for
However, the computer anti-virus industry was
far ahead on speed and ability to collect information on viruses in the
wild and process and act on the information instantly, the researchers
Comparatively the medical world was far
behind, with much of the infrastructure between gathering virus
information and processing it done by hand.
The report concluded that if the medical
world could put a similar computerised system of reporting in place,
its understanding of viruses and ability to react in an emergency could
be vastly improved.
The report, called Virtual Virology, has been distributed to medical and computer virus research teams worldwide.