The sneaky virus of self-destruction
June 8 2001 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

The sneaky virus of self-destruction | Friday, June 8, 2001

Friday, June 8, 2001

The sneaky virus of self-destruction

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor Computer users are constantly reminded to be alert for dangerous viruses that can "infect" and damage computers. Computer viruses are little bombshells of binary code, generally written by some value-challenged person who gains a sense of power from creating havoc and damaging other people's property - the more, the better. Viruses can be transmitted through software media like floppy disks and CD's but most commonly arrive via e-mail, typically passed on by an innocent friend who has no idea that his or her computer has become infected. Most come in the form of e-mail attachments and can be avoided by the simple precaution of not opening unexpected attachments. A virus can spread by invading the user's e-mail address book and sending copies of itself to everyone on the list. Later, the virus can do serious damage to the computer, or simply prove to be a persistent pest (like the "helpful" but annoying paperclip character in Microsoft Office products, which I consider to be an industrial virus).

The selling of virus protection programs is big business. Many Internet sites post regular "alerts" warning users about the latest virus to be making the rounds and giving instructions for avoiding or removing the virus.

Many e-mail users also forward virus alerts to friends and others on their mailing lists. The warped personalities that produce computer viruses are so prevalent and the alerts so frequent that many of us have become a bit paranoid.

The most recent virus to hit my machine wasn't a virus at all, but a nasty hoax in the guise of a virus warning. It was passed on to me through multiple messages from friends who were concerned for my computer health. Fortunately, I received another message pointing out its sham nature before I "disinfected" the hard drive.

The bogus virus originated in Brazil and was originally written in Portuguese. It has been passed on in a variety of forms, most of which warn of a fast-spreading e-mail virus called "sulfnbk.exe" that migrates to the c:\windows\command folder and remains dormant until a specified date, when it supposedly wipes out the hard drive. The message says the virus cannot be detected by anti-virus software, and provides simple instructions (often in upper case letters) on how to find and delete the virus.

Those who follow the directions inevitably find the file indicated and are tempted to remove it. Since they have it, they are motivated to tell all their friends, who might also have it.

The reason everyone finds the sulfnbk.exe file is that it is a standard part of the Windows operating system. It's a little program that helps the computer deal with long file names. Delete it, and you could be up the geek creek without a paddle.

The twisted mind that originated this hoax was apparently not smart enough to write the code for a workable virus, but wickedly clever enough to concoct a message that would persuade users to damage their own computers.

This whole modus operandi should sound familiar to Christians because the devil works in the same way. Evil's great power does not lie in dark, demonic frontal assaults, but in persuading innocent people to hurt themselves and others through self-destructive behavior.

And, the great tempter knows that the easiest way to get to us is through our friends or family. I am convinced that most people would never consider smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs if they didn't see it as acceptable or even expected behavior in the lives of their parents or friends. But, we see it every day.

I don't think many Christians would turn on other Christians, bringing division to the family of God and sabotaging our mission if someone else did not convince them it was the right thing to do. We see far too much of that, as well.

There are many means by which our own individual and collective behavior can harm our health or frustrate our future. Whether we shoot ourselves in the foot or put a foot in our mouths, the damage is self-inflicted. As Pogo used to say, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

And Satan laughs.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
6/8/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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