Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Who writes that virus?

Anonymous Virus-Writers

There are more than 62500 Viruses looming large over every connected computer trying to invade them as per the latest Norton Antivirus Virus updated definition file, at the time of writing this article. And many more may be under construction-testing-refinement stages, ready to release every alternate Hour. If you understand that if most of the viruses had been written in past 20 years or so, than, on an average, 8 ½ viruses had been written / released every day in the past, and no holidays in between! And, meantime, how many virus writers do you know, have been nabbed? Identifying and nabbing the dreadful virus writers remain a difficult, impossible task. Barring a few, most of the Virus Writers remain scot-free, remain indulged in making more damages or remain un-punished for damages they made. And, probably, writers of MSBlast, Sobig, Nachi and Swen virus that rocked computer world recently, may well, too, remain anonymous for the rest of their lives unless they confess it openly.

In the past, when there was no Internet, when you got virus in your computer, you only blamed your friend’s or other computer from where you swapped floppies because, you never know which computer had started propagating that Virus. Even in those times, pinpointing the Virus Writer was equally tough task as it is today. Writing Macro virus and putting it on Internet to self propagate is a child’s play today, thanks to some immensely popular, extremely user-friendly, down-to-earth easy applications and Operating System software. Further, most users of Internet remain anonymous and hence Virus Writers. Further, Virus Writers work real hard to remain anonymous; and past record showed that they had used easily accessible computer terminals of public places like Cyber cafĂ©’ , University Campus etc. where any one can use terminals without providing their identity.

Identifying Virus Writers

With present day technology, it is easy to identify that when and from which computer terminal a particular Virus had initiated to start propagating across Internet. In this case too, it cannot be established and proved that a particular user who had identified using that particular terminal at that particular time may be the actual culprit, since virus propagation task can easily be schedule to start at any given time without giving any clue about the actual Virus Writer. In the past, some Virus Writer got caught due to their silly mistakes and Gurus seldom makes such mistakes. For example, Melissa writer David L Smith was caught because his code contained the unique identifier from Microsoft Word. Apparently, he has fooled himself with his un-awareness that MS Word embeds a unique; user specific identifier to all its documents for various purposes such as document level security etc. and that can be used to prove its owner. Similarly, the ambitious teenagers who wrote Goner Worm sung their bravado on IRC and got caught. Onel de Guzman who wrote I love You virus caught on the suspicion that he had previously submitted a similar thesis during his study. Besides these and a couple few, no other Virus Writer has been nabbed.

Is there a way?

There is no full proof solution exists presently, and situation will not improve much in near future to catch Virus Writers red-handed. Unless there is total ban in anonymous usage of Internet, theoretically, it may not be possible to nab Virus Writers, and majority will enjoy their dreadful act in their privacy. Patrons of anonymous users cried hard when in past, Intel started embedding unique serial numbers on its processors that can effectively be used for tracking users. As a result, majority of processors in use now have serial number disabled. Therefore, unless the Virus Writers come openly and take credit, you simply, at the best, give some suspicious looks to some, for example, there were sufficient evidence that the Code Red worm was started propagating from China’s Guangdong province’s Foshan University Campus’s Computer. But authorities failed in pinpointing the hero, whether a frustrated faculty or an enraged student.

It seems that Virus Writers will continue to possess nine-anonymous-computing-lives and computer users are destined to bear with their fictitious stories.

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