A Very Public Privacy

Internet Security News

Virus Writers- Troublemakers or Something Far More Sinister?

The simple answer is both.  Virus writers take on many forms but when it boils down to it there are really three types of virus writers

– New computer programmers who are flexing their digital muscle.

– “Research” virus writers,  creating malware to test our systems

– Finally, and most dangerous of all, the professionals.  Writing malware at this level means it often goes undetected by anti-virus software.

Trojan viruses, for example, can be used to steal login details to web-based services that cost money.  These are often written by the first group of virus writers,  often students and young people who prefer not to pay for internet services.  This happened to AOL in 1987 when internet was more expensive to receive.  Since internet prices have fallen, so has the use of Trojan horse viruses.

From there on the world of virus writers gets far more complicated. From what I could tell,  a step up from petty internet theft is more hardcore cyber crime which involves many things such as sending out mass spam e-mails from thousands of anonymous sources.  Spam emails, as you all well know if you have ever read one are full of empty and impossible promises, usually costing a high price, or requiring your bank details.

Another type of cyber crime is that which I mentioned in my post on cyber warfare,  I have now learned that the technical name for it is “distributed network attacks” where sites are flooded with requests to the point where they are shut down and common users cannot access them.

Cyber criminals can use their talents to steal electronic currency, banking information, other confidential information. They can even use it to blackmail.

The methods are incredibly complicated and unfortunately I’m not a computer programmer and a lot of it goes over my head.

There is a fascinating website here which you should check out if your interested in all of this, which you should be,  it is after all, both fascinating and terrifying.

I am not a virus writer, and I have no desire to become one, but in those two words I think the motivation is summed up.  The world of virus writing is fascinating, and incredibly terrifying. People are naturally attracted to power, and I think that kind of talent is the modern equivalent of excellent sword skills.  It makes you threatening and admirable at the same time,  why wouldn’t you do it, if you could?

Food for thought indeed.  I look forward to your comments!


April 20, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. I still can’t understand why people do it. Surely the majority of peoples motivation for using computers is financial, why don’t these people become games writers or produce commercially viable software and sell it for financial gain (aren’t apps big business?)

    I suspect that the people who do this are not financially motivated and look on a PC and the web in a totally differente way I do.

    It follows that if this is a sub-culture determined to disrupt the lives of millions of others then they should be treated as serious offenders. Its not just a bit of mischief to show your mates how clever you are. It’s serious criminal damage, surely far worse than a bit of graffiti or a broken window?

    Comment by Gary | April 20, 2010 | Reply

    • It’s very true that web vandals usually develop into serious internet criminals but with the skills they have to write these malicious programmes so comes the ability to do it undetected.

      Young, inexperienced virus writers haven’t got the skills to be professional programme writers, and writing viruses that can fool some anti virus softwares I imagine gives them a bit of a buzz.

      It is far worse that a bit of graffiti or a broken window, it can potentially affect millions of people and cost businesses a lot of money but the way in which the viruses work means that detecting the source can prove difficult

      Comment by Katie | April 20, 2010 | Reply

  2. I feel sorry for the UK citizen who hacked into the Pentagon and was going to be extradited for doing so. If the reverse had happened I don’t think the Brits could extradite a Yank.
    His action could be seen as beneficial to the wider world community because it has exposed flaws in the ‘system’ which will subsequently be repaired. Obviously – if he’s done damage whilst inside then some sanction is required 0- but under UK jurisdiction imho….

    Comment by Roger | April 21, 2010 | Reply

  3. The line between a service and a crime is a blurry one indeed. If someone dangerous had exploited the same flaws you have to wonder how much more serious the punishment would be.

    Am I right in thinking this story included him being fired before hand and the stunt was a little bit of revenge? That may be a different story, I’m not sure. Either way I belive this guy did a really big favour to the Americans, but probably went about it the wrong way. As Gary said, if he had those skills, surely there was a better was in which they could be utilized.

    Comment by Katie | April 21, 2010 | Reply

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