Consumer Reports Viruses for Testing

Bob Sullivan has a post on The Red Tape Chronicles about Consumer Reports creating viruses for the purpose of more accurately testing virus software. In particular, these viruses allowed CR to check how capable the programs were of catching new viruses and new variants.

The antivirus community is up in arms, because they have made it a practice not to do this. I think in this case that their approach and their fear is not well founded. Indeed, a virus created in the lab could leak. But many viruses do get out on a regular basis because people put them out there. The advantage to creating new variants is that you can test and improve your software with them without them being released onto the online community.

Compare the risks: 1) A virus is released from Consumer Reports labs or 2) A new virus variant, similar to one that Consumer Reports produced, is created and released intentionally. I think the extra preparation and testing is worthwhile. The computer industry needs to become more responsive to the public. The time is past, or at least fast passing, when software developers are the priesthood of an obscure cult, and the rest of humanity just has to take what they dish up.

Keep up the creative testing! Oh, also be sure to keep those CDs with the new viruses locked up. It might only be a few hours advantage to the virus creators to have them, but let’s not give them any help.