As any program seller at any baseball park will confirm, you cant tell the players without a scorecard–and the same might also be said for identifying the plethora of viruses that seem to constantly arise to threaten computer systems.
According to virus software maker Panda Software, over the first six months of 2001, a flurry of viruses–malicious codes that inflict harm on or incapacitate computer systems–have threatened the security of computers worldwide.
The most widespread of these viruses belong to a sub-group known as “worms,” says Los Angeles-based Panda. A worm is a virus that replicates itself by sending itself out to other computers using its victims computer systems, notes Steve Demogines, director of technical support in the United States for Panda.
Based on its experience of the most common viruses detected in the first six months of this year, Panda has released a listing of its top 10 online troublemakers–its own scorecard. The company points out that most of these viruses have been propagated via e-mail and the Internet.
Heading up the list of cyber threats is W32/Magistr (also known as W32/Disembowler), the malicious code most commonly detected this year, says Panda. This virus spreads via an infected file attached to e-mail messages, Demogines explains. “It selects some e-mail address at random and sends itself out.”
Demogines says W32/Magistr is polymorphic, meaning that it can infect different types of files, which makes it more difficult to detect.
How do you know if youve been infected? According to Demogines, youll see strange messages on your screen, such as “Arf, arf, I got you,” along with more obscene greetings.
Despite its fear-inspiring alternate name, however, W32/Magistr is “not super destructive,” says Demogines. “Mainly what it seems to do is just overload the system.”
Taking second place in the virus derby for the first six months of 2001 is I-Worm/MTX, which poses a danger in that it is a virus, a worm and a Trojanall wrapped up in one piece of malicious code, says Panda. A Trojan is a virus that, once it gets into a computer, will allow access to that computer from outside sources.
Also delivered via an attachment to e-mail, this virus seems to specialize in amorous messages in the e-mails subject line, such as “love letter for you,” Demogines explains. The subject line also changes with each instance of access, he adds.
According to Demogines, I-Worm/MTX “loads up the system and causes problems connecting to the Internet.”
Next on the list of virus bad guys is W32/Hybris. According to Panda, this virus can control outbound e-mail and “is also capable of updating itself by downloading plug-ins.” A plug-in is a piece of software that normally updates or adds capabilities to a larger software program.
With this virus, the sender will be “hahaha” and the subject line will be “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” says Demogines. “This one was hard to get rid of,” he notes. “It runs a spiral pattern on your screen and you cant move it aside and cant work around it.”
This virus also replicates itself and sends itself to anyone the user of the infected computer e-mails, Demogines adds.
In fourth place is W32/Navidad.B, a worm that also bears the name Emanuel.EXE, says Demogines. This virus displays an icon and “plays with the user,” he explains. “It says Come on, lets play, then when you click the icon, it says Never press this button, along with various other messages.”
The problem with the playful code is that “it never goes away and stays in front of your screen,” says Demogines.
Next on the cyber list of shame is PrettyPark, a worm that can expose sensitive data, such as passwords or private access keys, to prying eyes, says Panda.