2003 'worst year ever' for viruses

Wednesday, 24 December 2003, 12:29 AM EST

In no other year have computer viruses and worms wreaked so much havoc and caused so much damage as in this past year, according to security analysts.

And the stakes are only getting higher as we go forward.

''This has been the worst ever,'' says Ken Dunham, director of malicious code at Reston, Va.-based iDefense Inc. ''Without a doubt, malicious code came to a massive head in 2003... we saw a huge impact of malicious code on infrastructure. We had seen worms cause some disruption before, but mostly they'd been an annoyance. Now infrastructure is being impacted.''

In 2003, viruses and worms not only caused billions of dollars in damages and clean-up costs. They went so far as to shake the Internet's backbone. They slowed down travel, halted 911 calls, and knocked out ATM machines. From the Slammer attack in January to the MSBlaster and Sobig family that attacked in August, it was one rough year.

''This year was definitely the busiest one on record for us,'' says Chris Belthoff, a senior analyst at Sophos, Inc., an anti-virus and anti-spam company based in Lynnfield, Mass. ''We started with Slammer in January and then we had BugBear in June. At the time, people thought that was pretty bad. But then the major event of the year was the one-two punch of Blaster and Sobig in August. They were very different -- one spread machine to machine and the other was a mass-mailing worm -- but both very damaging.

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