There are few things more devastating than having your PC infected by a fatal virus. We've all come to depend on these machines way more than we could have believed possible, and few of us have the discipline to back up as often as we ought. Hence the need for anti-virus software to protect against programmed mischief, or worse.
Yesterday the title of a Computerworld article Murder By Malware: Can Computer Viruses Kill? peaked my interest. The informative piece by Darlene Storm* was a worthwhile reminder that it is indeed better to be safe than sorry.
Some of the problems caused by computers over the years were not malicious in intent, just caused by a bit of bad programming code. She cites a rocket that went off course and whose flight had to be aborted all because of a single hyphen that should not have been there in the programming.
When you think of how dependent all our airlines are on computers, it would not be beyond the realm of possibility to imagine a malfunctioning computer bringing a plane down. This is something seriously speculated in a Spanair crash that resulted in 154 deaths.
Storm also cites the potential vulnerability of our power grids, upon which all of us depend. In climates with excessive heat of cold we know people can die when the air conditioning or heating systems become inoperable.
Hospitals are also dependent on correctly operational computers with tens of thousands of people around the country hooked up to life support systems. In addition to being responsible to keep our personal information secure, hospitals must see to it that that adequately staff their IT departments so that the machines, in addition to their patients, remain free from infection.
You can check out the full story here, though I wouldn't blame you if you don't want to go there. We've all got plenty of other things to keep us awake at night.
Computerworld.com, August 23, 2010