Virus Forecast for the Second Half of 2003

Despite the obvious perils of predicting how virus authors will act in the near future, one thing is certain: in the second half of 2003 malicious code will continue to appear, and it will be as dangerous if not more so than what has appeared up until now.

The events of the first half of the year are as good a guide as any as to how virus activity over the next few months will shape up, and it is therefore more than likely that e-mail worms and worm/Trojans will be high on the lists of the most widespread viruses. In particular, those using ‘social-engineering’ (tricking users into accepting e-mails or running files) are likely to head the rankings of the most virulent malicious code.

Worm/Trojans represent an extremely high threat, due to the combination of rapid propagation techniques with the dangerous actions of Trojans such as stealing confidential information like passwords, bank details, client databases etc.

We can also expect creators of malicious code to exploit vulnerabilities in widely used software, as this is another tried and tested technique for attacking users’ computers. So it will be no great surprise to see creations similar to Code Red or Slammer making an appearance along with the more traditional worms and viruses that appear every day.

In addition to all the above threats, users should also be on the look out for viruses that spread directly across the Internet, i.e. without using e-mail or any of the other usual means of propagation. This kind of malicious code can be particularly problematic as demonstrated by two of the more well-known examples, Muma and Opaserv.

Luis Corrons, head of Panda Software’s Virus Laboratory explains, “Nowadays unfortunately, security awareness involves more than just knowing about the latest viruses. It is also essential to be aware of vulnerabilities in operating systems and applications which could be exploited by virus creators or hackers. By simply checking to see the latest patches released, users can close off an important avenue of infection.”

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