Imagine an intelligent virus that could back up portions of its code on every device connected to the internet. No matter how many times you try and delete the virus, it is able to reconstruct itself from the bits of data it saves on different devices.

If such a virus made it dangerous/risky to use the internet (as we know it today) and we were forced to create a new world-wide network, what would be the effects of such a transition? Would data be lost, since any saved data contains bits of this virus? How long would it take for such a transition to take place?

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    $\begingroup$ Premise of this question is really, really far from reality. First, if something is plain text data, used only as text data, there is no way to put an active virus in it. Second, virus makers try their best to make viruses that can "back up" on as many devices as possible. That's how you create botnets. It just does not work that well, and cross platform viruses are next to nonexistent. Last but not least, if devices are vulnerable, what's the point of creating new network if you'll connect the same devices? Please, read more about computer viruses before you'll start to write about them. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Apr 26, 2018 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ From security.stackexchange.com's perspective, it does not matter how well the virus is backed up - if the systems are familiar with this threat, it will never get activated. From worldbuilding perspective, sufficiently intelligent virus can indeed defeat all security systems, providing they are not very intelligent. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Apr 26, 2018 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you @Mołot, those are some great points, and I appreciate your input. $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2018 at 22:28
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Even PNG, MP3 and JPG are hard to figure out. Changing the bit values on those files doesn't affect the overall file but can cause the software to behave in unexpected manners when those bits are read into memory and executed by the software using them. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Apr 27, 2018 at 0:29
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    $\begingroup$ There once was such a network, that used Internet technology but was isolated from the Internet; it was known as Internet2. It was and still is a research testbed for future Internet technologies. The Internet2 network still exists, but over the years it's been connected to the first Internet at a variety of points, including at all the major cloud providers, so it effectively is part of the Internet now. One could, however, take some liberties with this idea and make up another Internet2-like network that remained isolated. $\endgroup$ Sep 12, 2020 at 4:04

2 Answers 2


Assuming you have such a unbeatable and invincible virus, there would never be a transition to a new World-Wide internet network.

Firstly, it becomes too risky to maintain the integrity of a new network. With billions of users world wide, all it takes is 1 idiot to connect an infected/old device and your new network is corrupted and you have to start again.

Secondly, the amount of infrastructure required would to be too much of an investment for any group or country to support. You would need to get new cables across the world, replace satellites, phone, radio towers, basically all your electronic devices with wi-fi, bluetooth or networking capabilities would need to be replaced and put away.

Thirdly, all the data would need to be copied over manually. There would be no way to get a device into the old network then the new network without transferring the virus over based on your description. People would need to manually retype everything they have. Billions of lines of code would need to be retyped, or printed out and scanned in with some super impressive OCR device (all built without ever connecting to the old network).

Now you haven't mentioned what exactly it is the virus does, so there are many ways it can branch out. If its making the devices physically unusable, then you will never recover the world-wide net as we know it. If the virus makes it hard to use the net but not impossible, its entirely possible to keep using the old virus infected network. Since it affects everything, the flaw applies to everything so who cares. Just keep going.

The most practical solution would be that companies that require a secure computer system will simply create their own and never connect them to the internet. Data will be copied between the two networks manually to ensure no infection. Normal people will continue to use the old network because there would be no company or country willing to sponsor such a tool and not have ownership of it, bringing up the entire, who owns the internet debate. (The time frame for this could be anywhere from 1 month to several years depending on who is doing it, the size and complexity and if they have any current projects underway. e.g. google and amazon would be able to pick up pretty quickly since they are constantly building new data centers and laying cables. Military and such would take longer since they have stricter requirements and will hire contractors. )

You really need to explain what it is that this virus does that makes the internet unusable. You're basically already being monitored and your ISP could effectively man in the middle you and steal all your data. You have government agencies monitoring all network traffic and most people would happily post their data on Facebook or other social media where companies can grab/buy it. There are already spyware and ransom ware software all over the internet and I believe there have already been some viruses that simply destroy your computer. You need to choose your poison because some of the things you want a virus to do are already being done and have no impact on people's use of the internet.

  • $\begingroup$ While I agree with your conclusion, I do think you exaggerate slightly in terms of replacing infrastructure. Anything which contains only volatile information (such as the vast majority of cabling) would be safe to reuse. At worst, you would need to power it down to be able to confirm that it contains no data before connecting it to a theoretical new network. $\endgroup$
    – Kaosubaloo
    Apr 27, 2018 at 21:22

Viruses need a method of transmission. People would install filters (AKA firewalls) to block said virus and then clean up so it can't spread.

The best virus is the virus you don't know you have. You can steal info, steal CPU cycles to mine bitcoins or create a bot army to crush your foes but once the owner knows they are infected, they can remove the virus or even completely wipe the machine and start again.

The real reason to transition to a new internet is because a new technology comes out that makes the old internet completely redundant.

If you watch the movie (or read the book) for Ready Player One, they have the OASIS which is immersive VR. If everyone is using VR, the internet as we know it will die almost overnight.


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