2003 Worst Year for Computer Viruses?
Date: September 08, 2003
Finnish computer experts warn that this could be the worst year ever for viruses. Virus hunters are on the front lines, while Finland’s legal system struggles to catch up to cyber-crimes.
Numerous attacks have compromised business websites and personal computers this year. Most viruses and worms are developed simply to create anonymous havoc on the world wide web. But the recent scare of the SoBig virus has set a worrying precedent.
Mikko Hypponen, Director of Virus Research for the Finnish company F-Secure, explains that the SoBig virus was unique because it had a definite agenda: to turn ordinary PCs into profitable spam generators. Money is a powerful motivator – in fact, the SoBig virus was actually a series of programs released throughout this year, each one more clever than the last.
So far, F-Secure and other internet security companies have defeated the most malicious viruses. The vast majority of viruses and worms are amateur experiments and easily filtered through virus protection software and firewalls.
"Security companies are very effective in tracking down viruses and figuring out how they work, and stopping affected files,” says Hypponen. “What's much more difficult is actually finding the culprits, the persons behind them."
Cyber-Crime Laws to be Expanded
The legal system is trying to catch up with IT crimes. Some security experts want to make software companies legally responsible for systematic flaws that allow viruses to take root. However, this is an extreme solution, and one that most computer programmers say would only stifle the industry.
Finland made it illegal to create viruses or other malicious programs in 1999. And the Ministry of Justice is now planning to expand the law to widen the scope of prosecutable computer crimes.
No one has ever been charged in Finland with this law - partly because the damage done by home-grown viruses is minimal, and obviously, because it's very difficult to track down the real person behind a cyber-crime.
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