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Friday, January 2, 2009

Viruses-Faster And more Complex

There is a villain in the computer industry that can strike fear into any company or individual that encounters it. It has been wreaking havoc in both the business and personal computer world for many years. Its frequency and intensity of attack is on the rise. It’s the computer virus.

Viruses are programs designed to interfere with the proper functioning of a computer. They are quickly infecting every segment of the computer industry, attacking with greater frequency and efficiency due to their increased complexity.

Years ago, viruses had the ability to attack vulnerabilities in computer programs that were two years old or more. This allowed businesses ample time to patch and update security systems before the computer was confronted with an attack by the virus.

But more recent viruses, known as worms, are designed to exploit weaknesses in computer programs that are less than a year old. The increased propagation speed tends to decrease the ability of companies to install patches and updates before they are infected with the worm.

One specific worm—the Blaster worm—has managed to travel through network connections to transport itself throughout the world in six minutes. Experts predict that this increased sophistication is only the beginning of faster, more efficient viruses.

It is expected that there will be 11% more viruses this year than last year. Why? As computers become more complex, the amount of code required increases exponentially. There is an average of 10-20 errors for every 1000 lines of code written for a computer—that’s only 1 to 2%—but consider that current programs contain as many as 45 million lines of code. This tremendous quantity of code means thousands of vulnerabilities and therefore, systems are vulnerable to many lines of attack by viruses. Considering that recent viruses can attack 10-20 vulnerabilities at a time, it is relatively easy for viruses to invade and attack new computer systems.

Besides the increasing number of vulnerabilities, viruses are evolving into more sophisticated and complex vehicles of destruction. One type of worm—the SoBig worm—no longer needs e-mail to propagate itself and has evolved about every two months since its inception. This makes it difficult to keep security measures updated to combat each new form of the worm.

Other viruses—known as blended worms or cocktail viruses—lie dormant and appear to be neutralized for extended periods of time, but then regenerate and do their nasty thing after receiving commands from the virus author.

So, what is the solution to this rising problem? You can begin by increasing the types and quantity of security in your computers. Be sure to install firewalls, anti-virus guardians and update software and patches weekly. Better yet, schedule automatic updates for your computer programs and automatic weekly (or daily) scans from your virus checker. With the ever-increasing speed of mutating viruses, it is no longer adequate to update monthly. With a few safety precautions in place on your system, you can greatly reduce your risk of attack by these quicker, more efficient, quickly evolving viruses.

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