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rslade
Influencer II

Risk analysis and CoVID variants

Right now, people are in a major panic about CoVID variants. B1.1.7 (aka UK), B1.351 (aka South Africa), CAL20C, and at least one from Brazil. By the time you read this, there will likely be others.

 

CoVID is a really classic example of risk because so much probability is involved. As Donn Parker has famously said, there is no risk of encountering malware because, in the current computing environment there is no probability of encountering malware: it's a certainty. Almost none of the CoVID risk is binary. If you leave your house, you don't necessarily immediately get CoVID, it just increases the probability of your risk of getting infected. If you fail to wash your hands, you don't immediately get CoVID, it just increases the probability of your risk of getting infected. If you stand less than two metres away from someone, you don't immediately get CoVID, it just increases the probability of your risk of getting infected. If you don't wear a mask when you go out, you don't immediately get CoVID, it just increases the probability of your risk of getting infected.

 

And, if you do get infected, there is probability involved again. You may never show any symptoms. Or you may have something like a mild case of the flu. Or you may die. Or you may just become really, really sick, and, for a month or so, wish you would die. Or you may become one of the long-haulers with some weird respiratory or neurological deficit that never goes away. It's a fairly random outcome, as far as we can tell at the moment.

 

But there's more probability involved, and almost nobody is talking about it. Each time the virus reproduces, there is a chance of an error. Those errors become mutations. Most of the time, the mutation simply fails. The error causes the virus to fail to reproduce, or sometimes to fall apart. (Those mutations just disappear.) Sometimes the error doesn't really change much of anything, and it just makes it possible for us humans to do full genome sequencing and figure out where this particular case of CoVID came from. But sometimes, say once in 85.4 trillion times, the error produces something that will make the virus work slightly better than it did before. It may bind more tightly to human cells, or hide a bit better from antibodies. It'll be more successful.

 

A more successful virus will tend to have an advantage, and will therefore sort of take over the niche that the viruses are trying to occupy, just like any other evolutionary population dynamics. If the new mutation is more successful because it infects faster or easier, then the variant will spread faster, and the new variant will be more infectious than the old variant, thus increasing the reproductive number and increasing the number of cases per day. But that's ironic, because each new case provides more opportunity for mutation. Each time the virus reproduces there is room for that error, and so each and every new case means a greater risk of more variants.

 

Which means that every time you go out when you don't need to, or fail to wash your hands, or fail to distance, or fail to wear a mask, you not only risk getting infected, or giving the infection to your friends and family, or increasing the spread in your neighbourhood, but you also risk making a new variant, each one closer to the ultimate aim of the viruses to become something that infects everyone it contacts immediately, spreads via tiny aerosols that go right through filters, completely spreads through the entire organism, and then sits and does nothing and produces no detectable symptoms until a month after infection when it kills everyone.

 

Now, lest you think that is too dark a thought in regard to virus variants, note that, right now, even with the variants that we have encountered, we do know how to deal with them. We need to do exactly what we have been told all along, only more so. Stay home if you can. Wash your hands. If you need to go out, keep your distance. If you need to go out, wear a mask. Don't go to parties. Don't hold parties. No, not even SuperBowl parties. Don't merge bubbles. This is not rocket science. And it works.

 

Now, go and wash your hands. A different way.


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5 Replies
CISOScott
Community Champion

Re: Risk analysis and CoVID variants

@rslade Isn't it funny how your analysis of a disease mirrors real life?

Some people do not try hard and they do not succeed, usually. There are a few that seem to get through.

More people try really hard and succeed. Then some "lucky" people hit the lottery and succeed, seemingly at random, without having to try really hard.

There are a subset of people, much like the virus, that try to improve themselves so they can succeed. Some are good at passing these skills along to their offspring, but some are not.

You would think that athlete superstars would have children that are superstars as well, if it were just a matter of having great genes. That is very rarely the case. I think it is because the offspring do not have the same "hunger" or desire their parents had in becoming someone great at something. Which brings us back to the nature vs. nurture question. Is it genes or upbringing that makes you who you are? Are some virus molecules striving for greatness while other molecules just try to survive? Do some molecules just not have the right "attitude" to keep evolving? Or do some molecules have better parent molecules that make them want to strive for mutation to something stronger?

rslade
Influencer II

Re: Risk analysis and CoVID variants

> CISOScott (Community Champion) mentioned you in a post! Join the conversation

>  Isn't it funny how your analysis of a disease mirrors real life?

When you look at the fundamentals, instead of the surface trivia, it often works
out that way.

> Some
> people do not try hard and they do not succeed, usually. There are a few that
> seem to get through. More people try really hard and succeed. Then some "lucky"
> people hit the lottery and succeed, seemingly at random, without having to try
> really hard.

And some people work really hard, and then get hit by a bus.

Which reminds me: Either read, or watch the documentary of, "Capital in the
Twenty-first Century" by Piketty. Highly recommended. A good book, and a
good documentary on the concepts, which are highly relevant and important to
our current world.

Most particularly, there is reference to a psychological/sociological study that was
done with subjects playing a highly rigged game of Monopoly. Subjects were
randomly assigned as high end or low end players. High end players got regular
starting cash, "salary" when passing "Go," etc. Low end players got half the
starting cash, half the salary, got to roll only one die, etc. There were interesting
observations on the psychodynamics while people were playing. But the most
interesting was the debriefing at the end. When the high end players were asked
why they won, none of them mentioned the built-in advantages that they got
assigned, randomly, at the beginning. All the high end players said that they won
because they were better or smarter players.

> Are some
> virus molecules striving for greatness while other molecules just try to
> survive? Do some molecules just not have the right "attitude" to keep evolving?
> Or do some molecules have better parent molecules that make them want to strive
> for mutation to something stronger?

It's people like you what cause me to wonder what is going on in science classes
these days ...

======================
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"Viruses Revealed" 0-07-213090-3
"Software Forensics" 0-07-142804-6
"Dictionary of Information Security" Syngress 1-59749-115-2
"Cybersecurity Lessons from CoVID-19" CRC Press 978-0-367-68269-9
============= for back issues:
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CISOScott
Community Champion

Re: Risk analysis and CoVID variants


@rslade wrote:
> CISOScott (Community Champion) mentioned you in a post! Join the conversation
> Are some
> virus molecules striving for greatness while other molecules just try to
> survive? Do some molecules just not have the right "attitude" to keep evolving?
> Or do some molecules have better parent molecules that make them want to strive
> for mutation to something stronger?

It's people like you what cause me to wonder what is going on in science classes
these days ...


To further advance the thought "I think therefore I am", if I made you think (Wonder) did I make you a sentient being?

rslade
Influencer II

Re: Risk analysis and CoVID variants

> CISOScott (Community Champion) posted a new reply in Governance, Risk,

> ... if I made you
> think (Wonder) did I make you a sentient being?

I resemble that statement ...

====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
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but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince's part
to pardon. - Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Essays (1597)
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Steve-Wilme
Advocate I

Re: Risk analysis and CoVID variants

I'm stuck with only going out, mask on, to exercise the dog!  We stay away from the other dog walkers and dogs.  All goods and food are delivered to the doorstep.  We last went out to eat on 10th Feb 2019.  I haven't used a tank of fuel yet since March 2019. 

 

As the more infections occur the greater the probability of the virus mutating to create more infectious and potentially deadly strains becomes.  It's a bit dull but you just have to stay home and avoid socialising, to allow time for the mass vaccinations to complete.  It'll probably be Q3 or Q4 before that happens in the UK and community transmission is brought under control.

 

 

 

 

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Steve Wilme CISSP-ISSAP, ISSMP MCIIS