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Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Columnist says virus blew away 150 million PCs

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Tuesday, 11 May 1999

TECHWEB COLUMNIST JEFFREY Harrow believes the CIH virus "damaged PCs in 150 million companies and universities worldwide." He said this yesterday in a column titled "Time To Take The Net — And Viruses — Seriously." Boy, you can cut the irony with a knife. Harrow's astronomical figure comes from a one-paragraph TechWeb news flash which makes the same claim. Media reports (largely unsubstantiated, by the way) put the toll at roughly one million, so where did the other 149 million come from? TechWeb clearly knows more about CIH's impact than the rest of the world!

"If you adjust for the virus frustration factor, then multiply by the deputy minister's shoe size, you'll realize CIH delivered quite a blow to our country..."

Time for a little math. Let's start by assuming the original TechWeb news flash meant to say 150 million PCs, not companies & universities. The Asian continent alone seemed devastated by CIH, so let's assume Asia suffered all the damage. CIH afflicts Win9x systems, so we must assume Asia possessed at least 150 million Win9x PCs to begin with. I don't know about you, but I can't see them owning any more than this.

Simple math tells us CIH damaged every single Win9x computer in Asia. "Wow." Of course, this assumes (a) Asia had 150 million Win9x computers to begin with and (b) CIH affected 150 million Win9x computers.

I wish someone would present enough empirical evidence to support any estimates for 26 April, let alone the figures TechWeb spouts as Gospel. All of the figures I've seen to date lead back to a couple of government spokesmodels and a few consultants who each made an unsubstantiated guess. Doesn't anyone care to know how those people came up with their numbers? I'd hate to think someone multiplied by the deputy minister's shoe size after adjusting for the virus frustration factor...

Hmmm. Do you think those 150 million replacement PCs will come with a different operating system?