Thursday, October 19, 2017

Preserving Malware

Jonathan Farbowitz's NYU MA thesis More Than Digital Dirt: Preserving Malware in Archives, Museums, and Libraries is well worth a more leisurely reading than I've given it so far. He expands greatly on the argument I've made that preserving malware is important, and attempting to ensure archives are malware-free is harmful:
At ingest time, the archive doesn't know what it is about the content future scholars will be interested in. In particular, they don't know that the scholars aren't studying the history of malware. By modifying the content during ingest they may be destroying its usefulness to future scholars.
For example, Farbowitz introduces his third chapter A​ ​Series​ ​of​ ​Inaccurate​ ​Analogies thus:
In my research, I encountered several criticisms of both the intentional collection of malware by cultural heritage institutions and the preservation of malware-infected versions of digital artefacts. These critics have attempted to draw analogies between malware infection and issues that are already well-understood in the treatment and care of archival collections. I will examine each of these analogies to help clarify the debate and elucidate how malware fits within the collecting mandate of archives, museums, and libraries
He goes on to to demolish the ideas that malware is like dirt or mold. He provides several interesting real-world examples of archival workflows encountering malware. His eighth chapter Risk​ ​Assessment​ ​Considerations​ ​for​ ​Storage​ ​and​ ​Access is especially valuable in addressing the reasons why malware preservation is so controversial.

Overall, a very valuable contribution.

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