Truth About Computer Security Hysteria
USPA&IRA virus/Trojan (1986)
CATEGORY: Media flops, media fiascoes
Newspapers all over the country hailed a 1989 Texas computer crime trial as a "virus" trial. The defendant, Donald Gene Burleson, released a destructive Trojan horse on his employer's mainframe computer. The software in question couldn't spread to other computers, and prosecuting attorney Davis McCown claimed he "never brought up the word virus" during Burleson's trial. So why did the media call it one?
- David Kinney, an expert witness testifying for the defense, claimed Burleson unleashed a virus. The prosecuting attorney didn't argue the point and Vmyths.com doesn't blame him — Kinney's claim may have actually swayed the jury to convict Burleson.
- McCown gave reporters the facts behind the case and let them come up with their own definitions. The Associated Press and USA Today, among others, used such vague definitions that any program would qualify as a virus. If we applied their definitions to the medical world, we could safely label penicillin as a biological virus (which is, of course, absurd).