The year of the worm

Monday, 15 December 2003, 3:53 PM EST

The year 2003 has clearly been the worst in virus history. At the same time, the entire computer virus phenomenon saw its 20th birthday this year. New trends in 2003 were primarily the way spammers began to use viruses as a tool and how several critical infrastructure systems suffered from the consequences of virus outbreaks. The network worm problems encountered during the year have shown how important it is to equip every single computer with a personal firewall. The number of known viruses is at the moment some 90,000.

Virus problems seem to arrive in waves. Year 2001 was a very busy virus year, while 2002 was clearly quieter. Unfortunately, 2003 exceeded previous years in terms of both the number of virus outbreaks as well as their extensiveness and severity.

F-Secure Corporation classifies viruses on a scale called Radar according to their severity. The number of alerts of level one, or the most severe types, was seven in 2003. In 2002 the number was only two. The number of level two alerts was 25 in 2002 and 28 in 2003. Some of the virus cases seen during the year were caused by old viruses, some of which have been out in the wild for a couple of years now.

When we look at the year as a whole, five cases were in a leaguer of their own: Slammer, Bugbear.B, Blaster, Sobig.F and Swen.

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