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Virus writers chasing thrill of fame and money

Source: TheStraitsTimes
Date: August 26, 2003

Cyber Crime Analysts believe the latest waves of computer virus attacks are not the work of geeky teens but gangs of virus writers

LONDON - The lure of big bucks and the excitement of developing something new that could earn them a name in the cyber criminal community, could be motivating some people to turn into virus writers, analysts say.

The latest waves of virus attacks affecting computers worldwide are unlikely to be the work of geeky teenagers operating on PCs from their bedrooms, they fear.

'The money is coming from the spammers and we are seeing evidence that they are starting to employ the best breed of virus writers to help them,' Mr Paul Wood, chief analyst at Internet security firm, MessageLabs, told BBC Online.

This is evident in the SoBig.F virus, which hijacks a computer and turns it into a host to send out millions of spam e-mail, often without the owner's knowledge.

'It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but they are becoming very advanced now in organised high-tech criminal activity,' he said.

With the clampdown on unsolicited e-mail, which now accounts for about half of e-mail traffic, spammers need to find ways like this to continue their nuisance work.

According to Mr Wood, the virus writer could get a buzz from being successful and this could be a motivating factor as well, apart from the profit he could be making from whoever is using them.

Other experts say virus writers and hackers could now in fact be working together.

'In the past, hackers would look down on virus writers as rather immature, as hackers can at least, usually, give some reason for what they do,' said Mr Graham Cluley, a senior consultant at Sophos security.

Now they are working closer, he told the BBC.

There certainly is growing evidence that more virus writers are becoming interested in hacking into computers to steal confidential information, according to Mr Cluley. The BBC report says some of these cyber crime members have also formed loosely-knit 'gangs'. Most of the members are between 16 and 26 years old.

'The cyber gangs have names like 29A, Metaphase, YAM (Youth Against McAfee) and Phalcon Skism (Smart Kids Into Sick Methods),' said Mr Cluley.

'The gangs give the adolescents a sense of belonging and help raise their esteem.'

Many do it for the technical challenge, although it is actually extremely easy to write a virus, and does not require a genius IQ, he said.

They will often write something, then prove to themselves it can work. It's like a scoring thing, he said.

Others said not all virus writers are the same.

According to computer viruses expert Sarah Gordon, the kind of person who creates such disruption differs in age, income, location, social and peer interaction, educational level, likes, dislikes and communication style

Original article at: http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg

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