Viruses are the plague that the internet-connected world is struggling with. With more than 350,000 new types of malware emerging each day, the annual cost of the menace runs to up to $55 billion. The question on our minds is if we will ever stop 100% computer viruses.
While this may be possible, it may not happen overnight. Read on as we explore the hindrances to stopping 100% viruses and how we can overcome them.
Most developers rely on the Neumann architecture that treats data and programs similarly. Program instructions are similar to data instructions in the Von Neumann machine. They both share the same architecture, memory, and bus, forming a security flaw, as pointed out by Feustel as early as 1971.
The architecture allows data and programs to use similar instructions. That means that your data could be your program. In some cases, some programs can change their instructions and modify their addresses.
This may not be problematic in minicomputers with single users. The problem arises in an environment with multi-user machines where sharing data and codes may be rampant. This can lead to gross data corruption.
These outdated designs make our computers inherently unsafe. This compromises efforts to stop 100% of viruses since they create an environment for the continuous creation of corrupted programs and data that present themselves as viruses.
Sometimes we build computer artifacts that we cannot analyze with our science and engineering. This is because the foundational architecture allows self-modifications that we may not notice or control. This creates mutations that we did not set out to build, usually evolving into viruses.
As long as we are writing new versions of operating systems and programs, we will continue to see an emergence of viruses. This is because people will continue to try new tricks to overcome protocols. Recent attempts used malware that prompts you to open and install it on your devices.
As you follow the prompts and input new data, you can create a random stream of log information. This information may corrupt your systems and data, and your anti-malware software may fail to stop it.
This leaves your system exposed to corruption by mutating log information. It shows that we may not build foolproof software using a flawed foundational architecture that allows the software to self-replicate.
We can overcome this hindrance to stopping viruses by looking beyond conventional computer architectures. The first step would be to delimit our architectures beyond Von Neumann and Harvard bus.
Another step would be determining cache memory and register through a system-level design approach. This would be different from the transistor count, maximum clock speed, or chip area currently in use. Rooting for secure boot, trust, secure shutdown, secure OS, secure log files, and secure auditing will be another step towards stopping computer viruses.
How many times are people warned against opening suspicious links and emails, but they still do so? Humans are inherently curious and gullible.
They will want to know what is in an email with a subject matter that arouses their curiosity. If a link or attachment promises users gainful leads, they may open it without a second thought.
This way, we give room for hackers to continue creating malware since they know the malware will find hosts in the many computers operated by gullible and curious humans. Installing anti-malware software may reduce the success rate for hackers.
However, it does little to eliminate the threat since hackers work round the clock to create programs that overpower anti-malware software. This creates an endless cat and mouse race of hackers and anti-malware software developers.
A human firewall may be a strong defense against malware. If people stopped opening links and attachments that introduce malware to our computer systems, it would dissuade hackers from building malicious programs.
Hackers make efforts to build malware since their efforts pay off. If their efforts do not bring rewards, it will deter them from creating new malware.
That may be rightfully dismissed as wishful thinking since it is not easy to change human nature. However, you can reduce the threat by training employees on the danger posed by malware, how they can identify suspicious attachments and links, and avoid falling victim to phishing scams.
Can we innovate a way of making people know what is in an email or a link before opening it? This would be a perfect way of ensuring people do not click on or open unsafe attachments and links.
We may not change human nature to stop people from exposing themselves and systems to cyberattacks. Changing the foundational architectural design of computers may be a long-term venture, but there is a lot we can do to stop hackers on their tracks.
As stated earlier, hackers thrive as long as their techniques bring a reward. We can employ deterrent measures to prevent them from getting the returns. These are cybersecurity measures within our means, including the following:
Multi-layer security or defense in depth is an excellent way for protecting your systems and devices against blended cyberattacks. When one layer defends you against one kind of attack, the other may protect you against the malware that circumvents the first layer. It is a good defense against increasingly complex cyber threats.
Encourage your employees and family members to use strong passwords or passphrases. They should not write down the passwords anywhere or share them with unauthorized people. Doing so may compromise the security of your systems and data.
Take proactive security measures to keep your systems, devices, and data safe from cyberattacks. Besides installing anti-malware software and cybersecurity programs, ensure you update them regularly to protect you effectively at all times.
A web-filtering system blocks programs and sites that may harm your systems and devices. You can also use it to regulate the websites your employees can visit while at work, making it an excellent way of preventing them from using working hours to view non-work-related content.