Viruses and Graphics: A Dynamic Strategy for Creators of Malware

Since computer viruses first appeared on the IT scene, their creators have used a variety of graphics either as a bait to trick users and infect computers or as a way of leaving their own personal mark.

As the first viruses in circulation appeared before the Internet or e-mail were in common use, the propagation of these creations was slow and substantially limited. For this reason, virus writers were keen to ensure that victims were immediately aware of the presence of their creations. To this end, and in particular as a result of the advent of Windows, many of them, such as Marburg, Ping Pong or Cookie, displayed images when activated, some simple, some more elaborate and some were even animations.

However, as the Internet and e-mail became commonly used as means of mass communication, virus creators became more ambitious. The objective was simply to infect as many computers as possible as rapidly as possible. They soon discovered the effectiveness of convincing users that a file contained an enticing photo – even if it wasn’t true.

Nowadays, virus writers often use fixed images to try to trick users into unwittingly running a virus on their system. This was the case with Gibe.C for example, which presented users with a perfect imitation of Microsoft web pages.

Similarly, in order to trick users, viruses display images or icons associated with well-known applications. This is the case with Bagle.A, which uses the icon of the Windows calculator. However, probably the most frequently used image -as it is fairly easy to create- is the typical Windows dialog box reporting an error. Many viruses, including the Deadhat.A. worm, have used this technique.

Nevertheless, the world of IT viruses is highly dynamic and the past does not always serve to predict what will appear in the future. For this reason, the best defense is to keep your guard up and have a good, update antivirus installed on your computer.

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