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Computer-Virus Writer's: A Few Bats In The Belfry?
by: Dean Phillips
"Male. Obsessed with computers. Lacking a girlfriend. Aged
14 to 34. Capable of creating chaos worldwide."

The above description is the profile of the average computer-virus writer, according to Jan Hruska, the chief executive of British-based Sophos PLC, the world's fourth-largest anti-virus solutions provider.

"They have a chronic lack of girlfriends, are usually
socially inadequate and are drawn compulsively to write self-
replicating codes. It's a form of digital graffiti to them,"
Hruska added.

To create and spread cyber infections, virus writers explore
known bugs in existing software, or look for vulnerabilities
in new versions.

With more and more new OS (operating system) versions, there
will be more new forms of viruses, as every single software
or OS will carry new features, and new executables that can
be carriers of the infection.

Executables are files that launch applications in a
computer's operating system, and feature more prominently in
new platforms like Microsoft's Windows 2000 and Windows XP
than they did in the older DOS or Windows 3.1.

Virus writers also share information to create variants of
the same infection, such as the Klez worm, which has been
among the world's most prolific viruses.

The Klez, a mass-mailing worm that originated in November
2001, propagates via e-mail using a wide variety of messages
and destroys files on local and network drives.

But the news gets worse. Recent events have uncovered what
may be a new trend: spammers paying virus writers to create
worms that plant an open proxy, which the spammer then can
use to forward spam automatically. Many suspect this
occurred with the SoBig virus.

The Sobig worms, began spreading in the early part of
2003. The unusual thing about them was they contained an
expiration date and were given a short life cycle to see how
features worked in the wild.

Having an expiration date also makes the virus more
dangerous, because most people would have been alerted to
the new worm within a few weeks and anti-virus definitions
would have been updated.

A variant of Sobig, Sobig-F was so efficient that just a few
infected machines could send thousands of messages. Sobig-F
created a denial-of-service effect on some networks, as e-
mail servers became clogged with copies of the worm.

According to Mikko Hypponen, manager of anti-virus research
for Finland-based F-Secure Corp, Sobig-F sent an estimated 300 million copies of itself.

Computer Economics, Inc. states, "Nearly 63,000 viruses have
rolled through the Internet, causing an estimated $65
billion in damage." However criminal prosecutions have been
few, penalties light and just a handful of people have gone
to prison for spreading the destructive bugs.

Why is so little being done? Antiquated laws and, for many
years, as crazy as it sounds, a "wink, wink" or even admiring attitude toward virus creators.

One person has been sent to prison in the United States and
just two in Britain, authorities say. But the low numbers
are "not reflective of how seriously we take these cases,
but more reflective of the fact that these are very hard
cases to prosecute," said Chris Painter, the deputy chief of computer crimes at the U.S. Department of Justice.

So what can you do to protect yourself against computer viruses?

Well, first and foremost, make sure you have proven anti-virus protection like like Symantec's Norton Anti-Virus or McAfee's ViruScan.

In addition, If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend installing Microsoft's Service Pack 2. SP2 tightens your PC's security with a new Windows Firewall, an improved Automatic Updates feature, and a pop-up ad blocker for Internet Explorer. Plus, the newly minted Security Center gives you one easy-to-use interface for keeping tabs on your PC's security apps.

"Male. Obsessed with computers. Lacking a girlfriend. Aged
14 to 34. Capable of creating chaos worldwide."

Now, I'm no psychiatrist, but to me, the above description
sounds more like someone with a few "bats in the belfry!"

About the author:
Dean Phillips is an Internet marketing expert, writer,
publisher and entrepreneur. Questions? Comments? Dean can be
reached at mailto:

Visit his website at:

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