The word virus is one that carries fear with it, and it’s no wonder: the Bubonic Plague wiped out approximately 150 million people, and the flu virus kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people every year (Wikipedia.org, livescience.com). Less deadly but causing plenty of mayhem in their own way, computer viruses wreak havoc on unsuspecting victims every day. In 2015, CNN reported that there were nearly 1 million new malware threats every day. Just how disruptive can these viruses be?
Just this month, a ransomware virus spread throughout over 150 countries, affecting some 200,000 people. The most affected area was the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. Some hospitals had to cancel all routine operations and outpatient appointments, and they even had to divert medical emergencies and trauma cases to other hospitals (zdnet.com). This was a huge disruption in a very important industry, and it all came because of one computer virus. However, that wasn’t the end of it. Across the globe, problems manifested themselves in banks, gas stations, package delivery services, automakers’ facilities, colleges, railways, police forces, and even the United States Department of Homeland Security (cnn.com). It’s frigtening just how powerful viruses can be. When viruses like this spread and do what they’re designed to do, they impact the economy on a scale that’s hard to fully measure. Potential business transactions are lost when systems are down, customers leave angry, some businesses have to halt entirely, and the global economy itself can suffer. Stock prices can tank as consumers lose faith and fear for the worst, or the virus can attack the computers that execute trades, thus causing a complete shutdown of the market until the issue is resolved.
Just like a physical virus can infect every person, computer viruses have the potential to spread and affect every vulnerable device, computer, and network out there. If this were to happen, chaos could erupt across the globe. If a virus took out access to bank accounts and the funds therein, no one would have access to their money. As mentioned earlier, the stock market itself can be brought down by a virus. Gas stations and other businesses in the transportation industry can lose the ability to carry out electronic transactions. If any of these were to occur on a mass scale, anarchy would erupt. In short, computer viruses, though they can’t physically be seen, disrupt the economy on a small and sometimes large scale every day. These are just some of the reasons why anti-virus software and companies that disinfect our devices are so important, and those companies really the only positive, economic change caused by viruses.