Electronically transmitted disease?

H.W. LeBourgeois Tulane University of Medicine

Computer virus infection (CVI) may be a significant, adverse experience for computer users as a result of property damage, downtime, and privacy violations that often ensue after infection. Despite the potential for CVI to wreak havoc, the authors know of no previous, large-scale studies investigating psychological reactions to CVI.

The authors conducted an online survey of 308 college students who had experienced a CVI in the past, in order to study their emotional and behavioural reactions to CVI. The study revealed a significant association between CVI and survey responses suggestive of the development of psychological symptoms in participants. It is unknown if psychological reactions resulted in symptoms severe enough to warrant psychiatric diagnoses in any of the participants. Notwithstanding, it is possible that CVI takes a substantial cumulative psychological toll on computer users, given the sheer number of CVI cases estimated to occur each year.

In this presentation, the authors will present their findings and the limitations of their current study, as well as discuss theories behind why CVI may result in development of psychological symptoms. This information may be of interest to anti-virus software developers.


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