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Computational Microbiologist Uses His Expertise with Deadly Viruses to Devise a Superior System for Delivery of Safe, Free Software Downloads
Date:6/5/2010

d the key words ‘free software’. I should have added one more vital key word: ‘safe’.” Though he laughs now, it is the bittersweet humor of long-reconciled loss. Huff says he, of all people, should have known better.

In addition to being a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Huff is nearing completion of a four year computational study of the influenza virus and its evolutionary relationship to its human host. Completion of this complex project will earn him a doctorate in December of 2010. The experience has also taught him much about infectious human diseases, especially those caused by the tiniest of all threats: viruses. As with biological bugs, human society has developed multiple methods for dealing with unwholesome software. Collectively, these efforts mirror the epidemiological management of influenza, for example.

“It’s more than just vaccination of the individual citizen or installation of anti-malware software on the individual PC. The United Nations long ago established a global network of monitoring stations that collect, analyze and report on the presence of influenza infections as they occur. In this way, scientists all over the world can participate in the defense against dangerous emerging mutants like the strain that popped up in Mexico City during 2009. Though new, a similar process is developing for the identification and quarantine of Internet-borne malware.” The problem, says Huff, is that computer malware exploits active points of distribution, for which there is no equivalent available to the influenza virus. “Nobody is standing on the corner and intentionally passing out free samples of influenza, herpes or hepatitis, though anybody can find these diseases through careless contact, just the same.”

Eventually, Huff believes web sites that distribute software will be forced to carry some form of license or guarantee safeguarding the intention
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