To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

Every now and again, my warped sense of reality gets the better of me and plants the seed for yet another thought provoking editorial. This one began as a dream I recently had...

The latest entrant in the realm of risk management is the Hare computer virus which triggered on August 22nd, and is scheduled to trigger again on September 22nd. Without boring anyone with the details, suffice to say that if you are unfortunate enough to be hit with the virus, your PC won't ever be the same again.

While a small number of viruses cause nothing more than minor aggravation with recoverable results, the majority of them are destructively fatal to the PC and its files. And even though the creators of these viruses may succeed in trashing your system, what they'll never admit is that they've actually failed to accomplish what they originally set out to do. Michael Crichton hit the nail on the head back in 1969 with his novel The Andromeda Strain in which he wrote:

“It was a principle of biology that evolution was directed toward increased reproductive potential. A man easily killed by bacteria was poorly adapted; he didn't live long enough to reproduce. A bacteria that killed its host was also poorly adapted. Because any parasite that kills its host is a failure. It must die when the host dies. The successful parasites were those that could live off the host without killing him. And the most successful hosts were those that could tolerate the parasite, or even turn it to advantage, to make it work for the host.”

The first thing to note is the reality of viral susceptibility. While the headlines shout about the tens-of-thousands of PC's infected by the growing multitude of software contagions, it's important for all of us to remember that a virus is not necessarily just PC-bound. Mainframes are also at risk! Additionally, the dozens of virus detection programs currently on the market are designed to find specific “signatures” in programs and files which have already been compromised. So without running the risk of sanctioning computer viruses, the question in my mind is; Could a “successful parasite” benefit us in today's competitive marketplace? And the answer to that is a resounding YES. Imagine if you will the following scenario...

At 12:01 AM on any given day, a message flashes across the IMS Master Consoles of every Fortune 500 company: “ANDROMEDA STRAIN ACTIVATED”. Undoubtedly, telephones all over the world would start ringing and many if not all of the top brass would be alerted to the fact that something appeared to be very wrong on their IMS production mainframes. Visions of data corruption would lead to uncontrolled shaking, and possibilities of Disaster Recovery would wreck havoc on stomachs from Boston to Bakersfield. But Andromeda is not an “unsuccessful” parasite. On the contrary, Andromeda is the classical successful parasite.

Without any risk to any IMS system, Andromeda produces a very detailed analysis of all processing activity for the past 30 days, and generates a sophisticated report which not only points out the comparative deficiencies of the operating system, but offers an appropriate TPF solution that will save the company millions of dollars in hardware costs, software development costs, and unplanned downtime/recovery costs. Once the initial shock wears off at the CEO/CIO level, there's no doubt in my mind that a genuine appreciation (dare I say reverence) for the greatest marketing coup in history will offset any thoughts of criminal prosecution. Besides, it would be impossible to determine how Andromeda was introduced in the first place. (And you thought Bill Gates held all the cards?)

It doesn't take a genius to see that Andromeda is a possibility. Certainly it would take years to develop and perfect in order to achieve the desired results, but the return on investment would be a thousand times greater. In either event, I hope I've given you something to think about for a while. As for myself, I think I'll wrap this one up now and try to get some sleep... perchance to dream.

Alan Sadowsky