A pair of virus reports from today and yesterday triggered the subject of infection of HP 3000s. It's a system that falls into a rare viral category: No record of infection over more than 30 years.
Yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a priority list for people to get the swine flu antiviral this fall. Today at the Black Hat Cybersecurity Conference, a security expert demonstrated how to cripple an iPhone using a stream of SMS messages.
In order of age, we've got the human body that's been infected with viruses every year for more than 4,000 years. Then there's the HP 3000, with no known viral infections over three decades. Then there's the two-year-old iPhone, weathering the first viral hack in its short lifespan. Antivirals have serious limits; the viruses evolve to infect the human body, or the hackers keep evolving their exploits of computers.
But while there's no definitive record of a 3000 being taken over by a virus, that doesn't mean taking precautions is unnecessary. One security expert says that antivirus software is a good idea if a 3000 is using advanced software.
The subject of viruses came up when Matthew Purdue of Hill Country Technologies (and the OpenMPE board) reported the typical interchange between 3000 administrator and corporate IT auditor.
The conversation usually goes something like this:
Auditor: “There has to be...”
Me: “There isn’t.”
Auditor: “Find some...”
Me: “Won’t make any difference, there isn’t any.”
Auditor: “Can you prove that?”
Me: “Yes, how much of a budget do you have for this purpose?”
Auditor: “Just give me a statement then.”
Now there may be one out there somewhere, but I’ve never seen one yet to this day.
Art Bahrs, a 3000 consultant who specializes in security, says that a 3000 using open source software in the system's Posix space might be at some risk.
"To be honest, there is lots of antivirus software that runs on the POSiX side of the 3000," Bahrs says. "That is where it needs to be, because that is where we run things like Apache or TomCat or other Unix-like based packages — which have known vulnerabilities that could be exploited or used as the basis of a viral package."
For the record, the community has one legendary report of malware-like viral behavior. The story is from the era of HPWORD text processing software and HP word processing terminals. Neither of these are in use anywhere anymore, but Tracy Johnson relayed the story that "a virus that was built in the HP lab and propagated via HPWORD on 2626W Terminals, thus corrupting HPWORD on the Terminal."
But if that's the best someone can come up with, it's the equivalent of reporting a virus that attacked the tail of a human being. We await an update on modern-day current risks.