Remember when you were an angry young rebel? Evenings spent in the Student Union bar listening to Billy Bragg, under the watchful gaze of a Che Guevara poster, plotting the overthrow of capitalism. Maybe you went on a CND march or protested against the poll tax in Trafalgar Square.
On first glance, it may seem that the kids of today have lost their spirit of rebellion. No more student riots on the streets of Paris: it's more likely they're interested in text messaging their mobile-phone pals or buying the latest twisty, engineered jeans.
But just as fashions have changed, so has technology. Today's protestors are increasingly realising that they can have their voice heard without risk of a baton charge. As people who got hit by the Mawanella worm last week know to their cost, a computer virus can spread around the world within hours, displaying its message on thousands of screens. Daubing graffiti on a thousand bus shelters would take a lot longer.
Political viruses are not new. Way back in 1989, one of the very first computer viruses, Fu Manchu, replaced the names of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and PK Botha with expletives as they were typed.
Meanwhile, an early variant of the Jerusalem virus contained messages in support of the IRA and attacked the British government.
The arrival and huge popularity of the internet has meant that computers are now more interconnected and thus more capable of spreading a virus (or political message) at the speed of a petrol fire.
Email-aware worms such as Mawanella have documented the frictions between Muslims and Buddhists in Sri Lanka, a series of viruses from the Philippines have attacked their errant ex-president (and sometime film star) Joseph Estrada, and the Nuclear Word macro virus added a protest about French nuclear testing in the South Pacific to every document you printed.
The Injustice worm (also known as VBS/Staple-A) saw virus-writing activities turn away from the sex appeal of Anna Kournikova to the battlefield of international politics. The worm opened up pro-Palestinian websites on infected users' screens and displayed a message entitled "HELP US TO STOP THE BLOOD SHED!!", before describing the alleged murder of a 12-year-old Palestinian child at the hands of Israeli soldiers.
Perhaps of most interest, however, was what the virus did next. The worm automatically sent itself to 25 email addresses belonging to Israeli politicians. The resulting flood of email to those addresses, from innocent infected users around the world, could have been equivalent to a denial of service attack.
With viruses capable of bombarding governments with email and spreadingtheir message across the globe, it would seem that we have truly entered the age of information warfare.
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