Date of Award

1992

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Applied Science Honours

School

School of Information Techology and Mathematics

Faculty

Faculty of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Anthony C Watson

Abstract

In recent years computer viruses have become increasingly significant as a form of computer abuse. By virtue of their reproductive capability, computer viruses can have cumulative and potentially catastrophic effects to the many people who use those affected computers. There is a growing concern in the computing community about these forms of electronic vandalism. This concern arises from the possible damage to stored information on which the work depends and the ensuing disruption of the work-place. Although the vandalism or purposeful abuse by introducing computer viruses to computer systems was originally mainly an American experience, research reports published by the Australian Computer Abuse Research Bureau (ACARB) support the claim that computer viruses have become increasingly significant as a form of computer abuse in Australia in recent years. Apart from ACARB's figures, there is minimal empirical research of a similar nature being conducted to investigate computer viruses as a form of computer abuse in Australia. In this study, an attempt has been made to investigate the problem, albeit on a limited scope. In this study, the infection types and rates of IBM PC viruses in limited government IT organizations in Western Australia were investigated. In addition, this study has made an attempt to validate Spafford's speculation that less than 10 viruses (out of a minimum of 374) account for 90% of infections in the Western Australian environment. This study was descriptive in nature in that a fact-finding survey based on questionnaires and standardized interviews was conducted in State Government IT organizations in Western Australia in order to obtain data on which the research findings can be based. The data gathering instrument for this study was a standardized questionnaire which comprised limited choice questions directed at obtaining such information as infection rates of various types of computer viruses. The questionnaire was field tested to eliminate ambiguous or biased items and to improve format, both for ease of understanding and facility in analyzing results. The questionnaire was used by the interviewer as a basis for the interview so that the potential for subjectivity and bias can be reduced. Before the commencement of this study, a letter of transmittal was sent to the prospective participants in order to request their participations. Confirmation of participation was sought through telephone calls. A very high response rate (87.5%, n = 42) for this study was achieved. This is taken as an assurance that reasonable representation of the state government sector for the study is achieved. Prior to commencement of this study, approval was sought from the University Committee for the Conduct of Ethical Research since this study will involve human subjects. During the interview, subjects were informed of the purpose of the study, that there will be no compulsion to participate in the study and that they will be free to withdraw from further participation in the study at any time they desire. The results of the survey and its implications are provided in chapters 5 and 6. In conclusion, the research ratifies the proposition that currently very few of the IBM PC viruses contribute to the vast majority of infections in the Western Australian work-place.

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