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Viruses and Worms, Protection from Disaster

Virus damage estimated at $55 billion in 2003. “SINGAPORE – Trend Micro Inc, the world’s third-largest anti-virus software maker, said Friday that computer virus attacks cost global businesses an estimated $55 billion in damages in 2003, a sum that would rise this year. Companies lost roughly $20 billion to $30 billion in 2002 from the virus attacks, up from about $13 billion in 2001, according to various industry estimates.” This was the story across thousands of news agencies desk January 2004. Out of $55 billion, how much did it cost your company? How much did it cost someone you know?

I. The Why

There is an average of 10-20 viruses released every day. Very few of these viruses actually make ?Wild? stage. Viruses are designed to take advantage of security flaws in software or operating systems. These flaws can be as blatant as Microsoft Windows NetBIOS shares to exploits using buffer overflows. Buffer overflows happen when an attacker sends responses to a program longer then what is expected. If the victim software is not designed well, then the attacker can overwrite the memory allocated to the software and execute malicious code.

People make viruses for various reasons. These reasons range from political to financial to notoriety to hacking tools to plain malicious intent.

Political: Mydoom is a good example of a virus that was spread with a political agenda. The two targets of this virus were Microsoft and The SCO Group. The SCO Group claims that they own a large portion of the Linux source code threatened to sue everyone using Linux operating systems (with “stolen” programming source). The virus was very effective knocking down SCO’s website. However, Microsoft had enough time to prepare for the second attack and efficiently sidestepped disaster.

Financial: Some virus writers are hired by other parties to either leach financial data from a competitor or make the competitor look bad in the public eye. Industrial espionage is a high risk/high payout field that can land a person in prison for life.

Notoriety: There are some that write viruses for the sole purpose of getting their name out. This is great when the virus writers are script kiddies because this helps the authorities track them down. There are several famous viruses that have the author’s email in the source code or open script

Hacking Hackers sometimes write controlled viruses to assist in the access of a remote computer. They will add a payload to the virus such as a Trojan horse to allow easy access into the victims system.

Malious: These are the people that are the most dangerous. These are the blackhat hackers that code viruses for the sole intention of destroying networks and systems without prejudice. They get high on seeing the utter destruction of their creation, and are very rarely script kiddies.

Many of the viruses that are written and released are viruses altered by script kiddies. These viruses are known as generations of the original virus and are very rarely altered enough to be noticeable from the original. This stems back to the fact that script kiddies do not understand what the original code does and only alters what they recognize (file extension or victim’s website). This lack of knowledge makes script kiddies very dangerous.

II. The How

Malicious code has been plaguing computer systems since before computers became a common household appliance. Viruses and worms are examples of malicious code designed to spread and cause a system to perform a function that it was not originally designed how do you name a chat in teams to do.

Viruses are programs that need to be activated or run before they are dangerous or spread. The computer system only becomes infected once the program is run and the payload has bee deployed. This is why Hackers and Crackers try to crash or restart a computer system once they copy a virus onto it.

There are four ways a virus can spread:
1.) Email
2.) Network
3.) Downloading or installing software
4.) Inserting infected media

Spreading through Email

Many emails spread when a user receives an infected email. When the user opens this email or previews it, the virus is now active and starts to immediately spread.

Spreading through Network

Many viruses are network aware. This means that they look for unsecured systems on the network and copy themselves to that system. This behavior destroys network performance and causes viruses to spread across your system like wildfire. Hackers and Crackers also use Internet and network connections to infect systems. They not only scan for unprotected systems, but they also target systems that have known software vulnerabilities. This is why keeping systems up to date is so important.

Spreading through manual installation

Installing software from downloads or disks increase the risk of infection. Only install trusted and scanned software that is known to be safe. Stay away from freeware and shareware products. These programs are known to contain Spyware, Adware, and viruses. It is also good policy to deny all Internet software that attempts to install itself unless explicitly needed.

Spreading through boot sectors

Some viruses corrupt the boot sector of disks. This means that if another disks scans the infected disk, the infection spreads. Boot sector viruses are automatically run immediately after the disk is inserted or hard drive connected.

III. Minimizing the effect of viruses and worms

We have all heard stories about the virus that destroyed mission critical company data, which cost companies months to recover and thousands of dollars and man-hours restoring the information. In the end, there are still many hours, costs, and would be profits that remain unaccounted. Some companies never recover fully from a devastating attack. Taking simple precautions can save your business

Anti-virus Software

Another step is to run an antivirus program on the local computer. Many antivirus programs offer live update software and automatically download the newest virus definitions minutes after they are released (Very important that you verify these updates weekly if not daily). Be careful of which antivirus program you chose. Installing a PC antivirus on a network can be more destructive on performance than a virus at work. Norton makes an effective corporate edition specifically designed for Windows NT Server and network environments. When using antivirus software on a network, configure it to ignore network drives and partitions. Only scan the local system and turn off the auto protection feature. The auto-protect constantly scans your network traffic and causes detrimental network issues. Corporate editions usually have this disabled by default. PC editions do not.

Email Clients
Do not open emails from unknown sources. If you have a website for e-commerce transactions or to act as a virtual business card, make sure that the emails come up with a preset subject. If the emails are being sent through server side design instead of the users email client, specify whom it is coming from so you know what emails to trust. Use common sense when looking at your email. If you see a strange email with an attachment, do not open it until you verify whom it came from. This is how most MM worms spread.

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