The Epidemic Of Viruses Is Growing Worse
The existence of viruses–nasty pieces of code that come uninvited to wreak havoc on computer systems–is pretty much taken for granted in this cyber-era, but, according to experts, the threat is growing worse and the cost, financial and otherwise, of sustaining an attack is increasing.
“Theres always been a trend for virus authors to try to infect the masses,” says Steven Sundermeier, product manager for Central Command Inc., a Medina, Ohio-based maker of antivirus software. And once e-mail began growing in popularity, “we saw a plethora of new Internet worms.”
A worm is a virus that replicates itself by sending itself out to other computers, using the computer systems of its victims.
Today, virus propagators have additional means of disseminating their destructive wares, including file-sharing programs such as music download sites, says Sundermeier. Instant messaging and other peer-to-peer channels–such as ICQ and MSN Messenger–are also growing in popularity with virus spreaders.
According to Sundermeier, some of the latest worms and viruses can disable real-time antivirus scanning software, and can even disable personal firewalls. This allows the virus to operate freely without being detected.
In many cases, hackers are sharing information to help each other build new and more potent viruses, he observes.
In the past several months, says Sundermeier, “weve seen a lot of viruses that are part worm and part Trojan, and the Trojan will install an anonymous proxy server” on a target computer. A Trojan is a virus that, once it gets into a computer, will allow access to that computer or its network from outside sources.
The anonymous server, Sundermeier continues, “makes your machine a zombie,” from which hacker attacks could be launched without the users knowledge. The Trojan “relies on the user to execute [an e-mail] attachment,” he explains. “Once they do that, it mushrooms out.” The Trojan, however, remains hidden, looking for critical words that might communicate critical or valuable information on the infected system.
“A lot of hackers were originally doing this to get their name out there,” comments Bruce Hill, vice president of development for Hillcomp, a systems integrator based in Greenwood Village, Colo. “Now, its starting to be more on the dangerous side and the hackers are organizing.”