(Four years after some programming undertaken as a student job, Marc Andreessen owns Netscape. After six years of unsupported research and seven more years of watching other people use his ideas in their products, Fred gets the occasional royalty cheque from Wiley. Life, as Jimmy Carter observed, is not fair.)
Dr. Cohen's definition of a computer virus as "a program that can 'infect' other programs by modifying them to include a possibly evolved version of itself" is generally accepted as a standard. On occasion it presents problems with the acceptance of, say, boot-sector viral programs and entities such as the Internet/UNIX/Morris Worm. It is not, however, fair to Dr. Cohen to hold him responsible for the misuse of his work by others. The definition given above was an attempt, in the 1984 paper, to express a mathematical concept in English. The English version is only an approximation.
For some reason Fred Cohen's work was never given the credit or value it deserved. From the very beginning, systems administrators and the security community have seen his work as either negative or as an academic curiosity. (In addition, viruses have advanced the plot of many a book or movie, and not once has Cohen received a royalty cheque from Hollywood. Viruses even save the world on occasion, but does anyone phone Fred and thank him? Noooo.) This situation is decidedly odd, but has not, perhaps, been helped any by the perception of Cohen as a bit of a grouch. Fred's friends, however, argue against the negative characterization, noting that he has a very keen sense of humour. This last is amply demonstrated in "A Short Course on Computer Viruses".
Fred is the originator of the phrase "Mr. Slade's lists" in reference to my various collections of review, contact, and BBS information.
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