In your opinion, what were the most important moments for the anti virus industry in the year 2003? What were the biggest infectors?
Graham Cluley: The biggest viruses were Sobig-F, Blaster and Nachi. Sobig-F showed that viruses could be a spam problem, with the sheer amount of emails it generated. Some companies received hundreds of thousands of copies of Sobig-F every day. Blaster and Nachi showed that many computers were not being properly secured against the latest vulnerabilities, and that viruses could spread very fast via a route which was not email. Other worms, such as Mimail, launched internet attacks on anti-spam organizations showing the spammers and virus writers were working closer together.
David Perry: Clearly, the rise of network viruses, starting with SLAMMER and climaxing with MS-Blast. The slammer worm was propagated on Super Bowl Weekend, which caught many American computer users unawares. It leveraged network protocols to spread from sql server to sql server. It was, however, limited to only infecting servers of that type. Slammer was so successful that it managed to obscure an entire country (South Korea) from the Internet--an unprecedented event in the history of malicious code. Blaster, on the other hand infected all copies of Microsoft NT, XP and 2000. This raised the potential victim count from several hundred thousand to hundreds of millions, worldwide. Also known as Nachia, this network virus went through a variety of versions and has had the lasting effect of disabling use of MS-Exchange from most ISP's (exchange connect from client to server on port 135--which was one of the primary ports used by the worm. I use the terms virus and worm interchangeably because worms are a special subset of viruses, hence all worms are viruses.
All network worms share the ability to infect a machine with no interaction from the user. This makes them both more prolific and more secretive. A user has no visual clue whatsoever that he or she is infected with a network worm. This is the most pernicious of their various traits. On an entirely different front--there has been a great deal of speculation about the connection between spam and viruses. A particular email worm (SOBIG) dropped a component that could conceivably be used by spammers to spread their annoying email messages anonymously.
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