World of the virus writers

Monday, 23 February 2004, 3:21 AM EST

When Mario is bored, he likes to sit at his laptop and create computer viruses and worms. Online, he goes by the name Second Part to Hell, and he has written more than 150 examples of what computer experts call 'malware': tiny programs that exist solely to self-replicate, infecting computers hooked up to the internet. Sometimes, these programs cause damage and sometimes they don't. Mario says he prefers to create viruses that don't intentionally wreck data, because simple destruction is too easy. 'Anyone can rewrite a hard drive with one or two lines of code,' he says. 'It makes no sense. It's really lame.' Besides which, it's mean, he says, and he likes to be friendly.

But still - just to see if he could do it - a year ago he created a rather dangerous tool: a program that autogenerates viruses. It's called a Batch Trojan Generator and anyone can download it freely from Mario's website. With a few simple mouse clicks, you can use the tool to create your own malicious 'Trojan horse'. Like its ancient namesake, a Trojan virus arrives in someone's e-mail looking like a gift, a jpeg picture or a video, for example, but actually bearing dangerous cargo.

By The Observer at the Guardian Unlimited.

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