The end of standard mass mailing worms is nigh - maybe as soon as before the end of 2003. But there replacements - Trojans and Spyware - are much, much worse.
Or so Roger Thompson, technical director of TruSecure, a risk management firm, forecasts. In particular he warns of the risk from Remote Access Trojans (RATs) or backdoors posted on the Net or spread via email.
"Malware code writers will continue to disguise RATs and backdoor scripts as 'adult' movies and then post them to pornography new groups targeting inexperienced users," he writes. "Expect them to continue through 2003 but they will be mixed with more and more grey ware (i.e. spyware and advertising monitoring that is barely legal)."
Thompson notes mass-mailing Windows viruses were largely unsuccessful in hitting corporations in 2002, with the notable exception of organisations which did implement proper filters. One of the two biggest worms of the year was Klez, which infected home PCs mostly.
Macro and script viruses emerged at a rate of 200 to 300 a month in 2002 but this will decrease to approx. 20 to 30 per month, TruSecure believes.
According to Thompson, the impact of the mass-mailing worm is mostly over for corporations but it will still have an impact on SOHO (small office/home office) environments this year.
TruSecure (and more particularly its affable "Surgeon General" Russ Cooper) came to notice in 2001 for predicting that the Code Red virus had the potential to "meltdown" the Internet.
This warning was, we now know overstated. Cooper told us, when we met up with him before Christmas, that he did not regret the warning. He was acting, he said, on early analysis of Code Red and its possible spread through NT4 boxes. This turned out to be a lesser risk than first believed.
Fair enough, but TruSecure is still banging on about Code Red-style attacks to this day. Thompson warning he expects "another attack in 2003 in the class and level of Code Red".
If he means another outbreak of hysteria from sectors of the security community (which ought to know better) over some supposed Internet-crushing threat, how could we disagree?