A computer virus is a program that can replicate itself and spread from one machine to another with the intent to corrupt or destroy data. Many resources have reported that in 2009, the number of viruses, worms, and trojans have topped the 1 million mark.
One of the most common ways viruses are spread is through the use of email. Commonly, the viruses are programmed to spread themselves by emailing a copy of the attachment in which they're hidden to all the other email addresses in an infected computer's address book. This is occurring more and more frequently with the increase of computer and email users. The more users, the more people there are in address books.
The emails are usually titled with subject lines that would encourage an email user to open it. Some examples are "I love you" or "See famous person naked." When the attachment is opened, the virus is activated, and the user's computer becomes infected. One of the best preventative measures is to not open attachments. Not opening attachments is unavoidable for some. In that case the source of the attachment should be fully researched and the attachment should be expected by the receiver. Often, attachments that end with the.vbs extension (Visual Basic script) or the.exe extension (program files) pose the greatest threat.
It seems that the motivation behind the viruses has changed over past years. In previous years, virus writers were most often out to reap havoc and gain infamy. More recently, virus writers have appeared to be working with spammers. The motivation is now financial, and the goal is to infect machines, self circulate the infection method and take control of thousands of automated machines to conduct spam operations via open relays (Sturgeon, 2003). It appears that in recent years virus writers have been reported to be hired by spammers.
Network security has been improving over the past few years in response to the growing number of viruses. There is more awareness and investments into the use of anti-virus software, as well as spam blocking software. With the increase in critical data and sophisticated hardware and software, organizations and individuals are spending more to prevent and detect viruses and worms that can be detrimental to the day to day operations. Global revenue from anti-virus software reached almost $ 10 billion in 2006 and has continuously grown.
In conclusion, viruses and worms are becoming more complex because virus writers are trying to push the boundaries and improve upon what was already done. The number of email users is also greatly increasing. Therefore the volume of emails is increasing. Education about the potential risks of email is not always there for the younger users, so many email viruses are also spread by the younger or less informed users. Anti-virus software has been of increasing importance to network security and is shown by global spending.
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Karp, Jack (nd). Viruses Explained. TechTv.com. Retrieved November 19, 2005, from the Computer Crime Research Center at http://www.crime-research.org
Kruse, W., & Heiser, J. (2004). Computer Forensics. 9th ed. Indianapolis, IN: Pearson Education.
Sturgeon, Will (2003). Re: Viewing 2003: The return of the virus. Silicon.Com.
Retrieved November 19, 2005, from the Computer Crime Research Center at http://www.crime-research.org