The End of Unprotected Interfacing


"In the room the women come and go Talking of Michelangelo..."--T.S. Eliot

NOT JUST WOMEN, T.S. Men are talking about Michelangelo, too.

Actually, "talking" doesn't really describe what they're doing. "Screeching" is a big more like it.

"People are flipping out," said William J. Ouchark. "Everyone's scared of Michelangelo."

MOST OF YOU Know what Ouchark was talking about. A few of you are probably confused.


"Michelangelo is dead/a gut/a cartoon character," you are saying. "I'm not scared of him/it/that stupid-looking fictional turtle. I'm going back to my thesis."

Go right ahead. If you're writing with a Macintosh/typewriter/quill pen, you're probably safe. If you're working on a PC, don't say you weren't warned.

Michelangelo strikes today. Not Michelangelo the artist, or Michelangelo the Core class, or Michelangelo the hero in a half-shell. Michelangelo the computer virus. If your PC is infected, and you boot up today, Michelangelo will turn your hard drive to spaghetti.

"There is a potential for a virus like Michelangelo to be a very big deal indeed," said Thomas E. Cheatham, a Gordon McKay professor of computer science. (Irrelevant fact: I say "a" Gordon McKay professor and not "the" Gordon McKay professor because 12 of Harvard's 18 computer science professors are Gordon McKay professors. Gordon McKay must have been loaded.)

"I don't want to add to the hysteria, but this thing is vicious," added Ouchark, who manages Harvard's PC network in the Science Center. "Once it nails you, there's nothing you can do about it."

YSTERIA? Damn straight. Infinitesimal pieces of "malicious code" are lurking within our computers, waiting to explode. We can't see them. We don't understand them. But they can make our lives hell. According to The Boston Globe's reassuring article on viruses Wednesday (soothingly titled "COMPUTER KILLERS"), Michelangelo will do to a hard drive what a high-speed frontal collision will do to a car. No wonder people were wigging out yesterday:

In the PC center in the Science Center basement--undoubtedly "the room" Eliot had in mind--"user assistants" were patiently dealing with Michelangelophobia. "People know something really heavy and bad is coming," said Peter J. Bohlin, a Northeastern senior. "They just don't know how to deal with it. One woman came in totally hysterical. She was convinced that all her disks were infected with Michelangelo." Dozens of frantic PC owners have come into have their disks checked for the virus.

Next door, Michelangelo was the topic of the day among the e-mail crowd. "I'm worried about this Michelangelo virus going around," Rebecca L. Dubowy wrote to a friend at Carnegie Mellon. (Okay, so I peeked.) Dubowy told me she has received similar messages from friends at MIT, Penn and Berkeley.

At University Hall, Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III announced that he had worried about Michelangelo while lying in bed the night before. A special antivirus package was promptly purchased to protect the University Hall network. Total cost: $2000.

At Holyoke Center--which tested negative for Michelangelo--Registrar Georgene Herschbach was eager to share her insights on the virus with The Crimson's readership: "You want me to say that I was freaked out for a while. You're trying to make a story out of this. Viruses are out there in increasing numbers, and they require effective virus management. Hard drive management. But I don't want to be quoted on this subject. I have nothing to say about this. You're just trying to make a story out of what I'm saying. I would prefer that you don't use any of this, all right?"

All right.