HOME Technology 2003
Slam spam and viral invaders

The most frustrating thing about having a PC with an internet connection is becoming an automatic target for the an increasing diversity of ‘malware’ and junk mail.

Malware or malicious software, describes any net-borne nasties, ranging from unexpected code to viruses, Trojan horses, worms and even spam, that can infect your computer or waste your time.

San Francisco-based anti-spam company Brightmail claims spam penetration was 8 per cent two years ago but by September 2003 it had rocketed to 54 per cent of all email. That growth is expected to continue escalating.

Brightmail says individual spammers can broadcast hundreds of millions of email messages daily. It takes very few responses to make them profitable and they’re are growing at an alarming rate.

Junk mail overload

Dominant spam this year has ranged from penis enlargement pills to get rich schemes for the gullible, including appeals from allegedly dispossessed but wealthy people in South Africa or Nigeria wanting your bank account details to relocate millions of dollars.

Then there are legitimate but annoying pitches for everything from herbal remedies to spy cameras, remote controlled cars, and ironically spam removal products. There’s also a stream of advertisements trying to entice the weak willed into the cesspool of smut contained in the web’s red light districts.

In fact porn has become a modern day plague on the internet racking up 1800 per cent growth rate over five years. According to N2H2 (www.N2H2.com) pornography related pages grew from 14 million in 1998 to roughly 260 million in 2003.

This news came hot on the heels of news that Microsoft was closing down its chat rooms in 28 countries in an attempt to reduce access by sexual predators to children using the sites.

A growing number of filters able to strip out unwanted content from email are available and more internet service providers are adding their own spam filters to curtail the growing torrent of junk mail.

Holes in software

Users around the world continue to express deep frustration at the ongoing need to plug holes in mainstream software as hackers, crackers and spam perpetrators find loopholes and vulnerabilities to exploit.

Meanwhile the old virus bogey continues to proliferate with users heading to technical and anti-virus sites in their droves to get advice, protection and updates. Central Command’s Dirty Dozen for 2003 rates the Sobig.F worm as the biggest threat despite it having a termination date of September 10th. Its aggressive email spreading routine saw it cripple many computer systems.

Next on the list for its annoyance factor was Gibe.C, and Gibe-F worm that craftily disguises itself as a security patch from Microsoft. Many people follow its link and becoming infected. The fact is Microsoft never sends out emails of this nature, instead advising users go direct to its home page to update and acquire patches.

Blaster and variants of the Klez worm continue to propagate as do SirCam, Bug Bear.

Hoaxes for gullible

Remember too that there are numerous hoaxes urging you to pass on to everyone in your mail box their warning of some new menace that will eat your hard drive or corrupt your data and immediately. This is little more than a manual virus and if you comply you are the one who’s propagating it ( http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html ).

Internet security vendors continue to update and create more sophisticated versions of their products to combat all of these challenges. For example Symantec recently released its Norton Internet Security 2004 software, including Norton Antivirus 2004, which has been enhanced to be more effective against non-virus threats that can compromise system security, pry into confidential data, and track online behaviour.

Although most anti-virus packages now have automatic updates it is important for users to ensure these are kept current and to regularly scan the hard drives to ensure it is clean.

Graphic courtesy:

  Back2front      General Interest Webzine