Interview with Wolfgang Stiller virus expert



interview-with-wolfgang-stiller-virus-expert-photoBack in the day there were probably 100 anti-virus products. This was a DOS world just moving into Windows 3.1 and then Windows 95. Among the folks offering anti-virus was Wolfgang Stiller with his product Integrity Master. His site is now owned by a spam, I mean landing page, company.

Originally published on November 4, 1995.

Wolfgang Stiller is a known virus expert. His product, Integrity Master, is what the pros use to protect themselves from data loss!

You can contact Wolfgang Stiller at 74777.3004@compuserve.com.

PG: Describe your product Integrity Master in detail. Does it work with Windows 95?

WS: Integrity Master works smoothly with both Win95 and OS/2. Since release 2.51 of IM we have had a Windows setup utility included with IM (IMWIN.EXE).

Integrity Master is a high performance (100% assembler) program offering virus scanning, data integrity, security, CMOS protection, and change management all in one easy to use package. It detects hardware glitches, software bugs, and even deliberate sabotage to your data. If a virus strikes, IM identifies it by name and (unlike other programs) also identifies any damage caused by the virus. It will even detect new and unknown viruses. IM is NCSA (National Computer Security Association) as a virus scanner.

PG: What was the inspiration behind Integrity Master?

WS: Integrity Master began almost 15 years ago when I was working IBM system 360/370 computers as well as 8080 based micro computers. I wrote the ancestor to IM in IBM BAL (Assembler) and then ported it to the 8080 (later CPM) environment. At this point, Integrity Master was fairly primitive-purely an integrity checker. It would read each file, record a 32 bit CRC and compare values on future checks. But it was invaluable! Many times when my system would function strangely, I would run the checker and find a file had become corrupted. Without IM’s ancestor, I would have had no way to find such damage. Back in 1988, I realized that these same problems were happening on IBM PCs and that since a virus must change something on your PC to infect it, the basic idea would also detect viruses. I completely rewrote the checker in 8088 assembler and added software to check system and reload system sectors. This was published in an article in PC Magazine (Feb 1990). The software was called the “PCdata integrity toolkit”. This gave me extensive experience with thousands of users. I realized that most people need much more help than that provided by just an integrity checker. To solve these problems, I began work on Integrity Master to become an intelligent integrity checker. It would spot any changes to the system (files, system sectors or CMOS) but it would also advise if the change was due to a virus. To accomplish this I added a virus scanner (this grew from 40 viruses to more than 7,000 today!) and generic detection of virus like code.

PG: Describe a hard to believe story related to the use of Integrity Master. Did it save a corporation? Did someone use it in an odd way?

WS: Here are some interesting stories from my files:

Marcus Byron of Brooklyn, New York wrote this in a public message in the Intelec Virus conference:

“This is for you and ALL others who may still be thinking of “IF THIS PROGRAM IS WORTH IT”: I was able to detect the reason my hard drive/system went down by using Integrity Master to tell me that BOOT sectors were damaged and were no longer readable. Before that, I had no idea. This is about the sixth or seventh time this program has saved my neck.

I really wanted you to know that”

Kay S. an administrative assistant with the State of Florida reports:

Some strange things had been happening on my PC that totally mystified me until I installed Integrity Master. Then I realized that someone was changing files on my PC during my lunch hour. This was supposedly intended to be a “joke” but after Integrity Master reported which files were changed, I checked and discovered the truth. A co-worker was deliberately trying to make me lose credibility with my boss. We caught him red-handed a few days later trying to change some spreadsheets.

Bill J. from Rochester NY reports:

I was working under an extremely tight deadline earlier this week. On Tuesday morning, my PC wouldn’t boot from the hard disk. I booted from a diskette, but then it said “Invalid drive specification” when I tried to access my hard disk. I WAS PANICKED! I ran Integrity Master from the diskette and it immediately diagnosed the problem and asked me if I would let it reload the boot sector on my hard disk. I let Integrity Master fix things up and then had it do a full check to make sure everything was in order. My hard disk was accessible again and I was back at work in five minutes. Whew!

Dickford Cohn (Sanken Electric USA) writes a public message to us and to a user in the IBMSYS forum on CompuServe: (His remarks were the result of a request for help by a user who had mysteriously damaged files on his PC)

“Right on! Integrity Master has saved my bacon more than once.

Re: Taking the word integrity seriously…that is EXACTLY why I chose your prog, For what it’s worth, I view your anti- virus efforts as a bonus. But, as one who ‘s had data trashed by all manner of ill-behaved programs, I welcome your program as a big step in curing these ills. Thanks. ”

Henry Leahy, had a frustrating problem with a faulty disk controller but couldn’t get anyone or anything to isolate the problem until he ran Integrity Master. He reports:

“I thought you would be interested in my experience with Integrity Master. With all the publicity about Michelangelo some time back I thought it wise to look into virus protection schemes. I downloaded everything PC magazine mentioned in their article and read what the various programs had to offer. Your text convinced me that you had the best approach and that PC Magazine had not given you adequate mention. Running IM, I got reports that files I had not been near, (non-executable files), were changed . Several runs of IM showed the “magic numbers” to cycle between two values for each file. Earlier I had a problem with my tape system, being unable to get consistent results for tape verify. The tape system vendor, Mountain Computer Inc. was very helpful, giving advice to look for hardware problems and when all else failed replacing hardware and software. The problem persisted; I concluded the problem was somewhere else in my system but was at a loss to find a method to catch the one bad bit in seventy or eighty megabytes. Integrity Master confirmed that the problem was elsewhere in my system. Presented with IM’s report, my system vendor, Gateway 2000 agreed to troubleshoot the entire system. They concluded that my disk controller was bad, replaced it at no cost to me. Now tapes verify and IM finds only legitimate file alterations.”

Nathan M. experienced conflicts between some resident software on his PC and some new hardware that he had recently installed. His account makes it clear how devastating an undetected system problem can be. He writes:

I love it! I have been a fan of integrity checking (IC) ever since my first big software conflict trashed small parts of a few files of the 2,000 + files on my disk in … 1986, I think. I worked hours to find the damaged files. Noooo …. many evenings is more like it and I never felt confident that I found most, much less all, of the bad files! I was not a happy computer owner …. ! Five times since then I have had files software-conflict-mangled (SCM) and the number of files on the good ol’hard disk has grown to around 5,000. And now… all this is made easy and automatic in your Integrity Master product.

Three times in the last year file corruption has hit my system. I love and use the Norton Utilities and most of the time NDD (Norton Disk Doctor) gets all the correct clusters sorted out- BUT about 40 to 60 percent of the involved files had single sectors mangled within properly assigned clusters!

The computer experts writing books, teaching classes, …. and writing programs haven’t really stated how very easy it is to lose or damage information, AND HOW VERY DIFFICULT IT IS TO KEEP TRACK OF — the accuracy of — A lOOMb OF INFORMATION AND SOFTWARE. Clearly, without additional help in the form of integrity software, I believe it is IMPOSSIBLE!

John J. an Engineer with General Motors called us with this report:

“Integrity Master recently detected a Jerusalem related virus on several of our PCs. None of our other anti-virus products detected this virus! Unfortunately, none of the disinfection or virus cleaning programs could correctly remove the virus. We permanently lost a lot of files because our backups were damaged also. I wish we had purchased your product earlier. It could have saved us thousands of dollars.

Gil J. used Integrity Master to discover that his backup program had incorrectly restored a file from a backup. Prior to this he had spent days trying to figure out why his PC appeared not to work. He then wrote this public message to us in the IBMSYS forum on CompuServe:

“Integrity Master certainly appears to work, and work well; but then YOU knew that! I had a program overlay that appear to be corrupted because it bombed when it ran. I’ve had this problem before, and still don’t know the root cause. I had run IM and then reloaded from a backup. Then I ran IM again and it detected the change, reporting possible corruption, even though the file size, date, and time WERE IDENTICAL. Central Point AV and McAfee both failed to report anything at all. Central Point AV program creates checksum files that I would have thought would detect the corrupted file problem, BUT THEY DIDN’T! In balance — great looking program, seems more effective, and a LOT — read a WHOLE LOT — faster than Central Point.

PG: What is the future of Integrity Master?

WS: Integrity Master is already the fastest and most comprehensive integrity checker available anywhere. We’re constantly adding new features and we will of course keep up with new operating system features and viruses. Our product was one of the first to detect the new MS Word macro based viruses. Within twelve months we will release version three of IM that will have new capabilities in checking the integrity of low level operating system processes.

PG: What is the biggest challenge concerning the marketing of Integrity Master?

WS: The biggest challenge is one of perception. We don’t have “Virus” in our name but provide top-rated virus scanning and generic protection. Most of our customers still by IM only for virus protection. The need to check the integrity of PC files just isn’t recognized by the average person. They don’t realize that on today’s large disks, it is very common to experience system problems due to undetected file corruption. Without Integrity Master the only way to solve such problems is to reinstall software until the problem goes away. This can be VERY costly in terms of lost time and data!

PG: Does Integrity Master support you so you can work on it full-time? If not, what do you do for a living?

WS: Integrity Master supports myself and several others.

PG: What are some of your hobbies?

WS: My wife and I enjoy bicycle touring, hiking, sailing, and overseas travel (usually by bicycle). Unfortunately, Stiller Research requires so much time that we have been very limited in our overseas travel.

PG: Do you think shareware has a future? Why or why not?

WS: Yes, very much so. This is best way by far to acquire software. Large companies are now offering evaluation versions of their products free for download.

PG: Describe your main computer setup?

WS: I have a large number of systems to test IM on all available platforms but my personal development system is a Micro P90 with 32mb and dual 1.6gb PCI bus WD harddrives. I use native DOS for program development. This offers the max in speed and function for most of what I do. All our PCs are connected on a Lantastic 6.0 LAN with an optional Netware server for network testing.

PG: What do people think we they think about Wolfgang Stiller?

WS: Heh,heh, it beats me. I like to think that they associate the word “Integrity” with my name . Seriously, I take integrity very seriously when it comes to providing a solid product and supporting our customers.