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An Epidemiological View of Worms and Viruses

Thomas Chen
IEC Annual Review of Communications, vol. 59, Fall 2006

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The communal nature of the Internet exposes organizations and home computer users to a multitude of worms, viruses, and other malicious software (malware) threats such as spyware and Trojan horses. Viruses are program fragments attached to normal programs or files that hijack the execution control of the host program to reproduce copies of the virus. Worms are automated self-replicating programs that seek out and copy themselves to vulnerable new targets over the Internet. In the same way that germs are quickly shared among people, worms can spread rapidly among networked computers. In the second half of 2004, Symantec reported 7,360 new Windows worms and viruses, an increase of 63 percent over the number of new worms and viruses in the first half of 2004 [1]. The most prevalent worms were variants of Netsky, MyDoom, Beagle, and Sober. In the 2005 CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey, 75 percent of the surveyed organizations reported being hit by worm and virus attacks [2]. Worms and viruses were the most frequent and costly type of attack, despite the use of antivirus software and firewalls by 96 percent of the surveyed organizations.

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