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Computer Virus Writers Adopt New Strategy

In the past, virus writers seeking fame and attention wrote their malicious programs to spread as quickly and broadly as possible, boasting to colleagues when they manage to cripple hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide in a matter of hours.

But now, many writers are driven by money instead. They write code to turn the computers of unsuspecting individuals into "botnets" - networks for spreading junk e-mail or stealing financial data from others.

Security experts find that some are even taking measures to make sure their programs don't spread too quickly or too broadly, lest they get detected and blocked. Not too long ago, a single person took control of as many as 400,000 computers at once with the help of malicious programs. Today, the average is less than 1,000, making such networks more difficult to track and shut down.

Virus writers have also thoughtfully used sites with software vulnerabilities allowing the spread of malicious code. They will remove the malicious programs once enough users are infected and restore it later. Many of the new viruses spread primarily through social engineering -- tricking a user into opening an e-mail attachment by making a message appear legitimate.

Computer worms such as 2004's "Sasser" exploited flaws in the susceptible variants of Windows operating system (like Windows 2000 and Windows XP). It automatically scans the web for computers with the vulnerability and enters the system through particular susceptible Internet port. But the rapid spread also triggered rapid-response alerts among security vendors and prompted network operators to prioritize applying patches to the Windows flaws.

Sophisticated terrorization, is frequently much more bothersome than an attempt to establish multitude of deceiving computers, are normally controlled within a couple of days.

High-profile threats, often much more troublesome than an effort to set up armies of betraying computers, are typically inhibited within a day or two.

By contrast, botnet computers can stay active for months. A botnet is a network of infected computers and infection occurs when, for example, a user opens a file attachment in an email, visits certain websites or simply connects to the Internet.

Related article: Computer at Water Filtration Plant Attacked by Hacker

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