Viruses: the next generation

Within an hour of its release, workers in London wake to an expression of affection - and before long, e-mail is brought to a screeching halt in the House of Commons, followed by the Pentagon, Ford Motor Company, and a number of dot-com start-ups in San Francisco.

The Love Bug has arrived, and everyone's got it.

The Love Bug, also known as LoveLetter, spread more rapidly and widely than any electronic virus before it, striking 55 million computers (infecting 2.5 to 3 million of those) and causing $US8.7 billion in damage, according to research firm Computer Economics. By contrast, Melissa - the fastest-moving virus before LoveLetter - reached about 250,000 computers in March 1999.

In 1993, there were 3200 known viruses in the world. Today, there are more than 40,000 - though only 200 to 300 of them are actively spreading, or "in the wild". Some six to 12 new viruses appear each day, and each generation gets sneakier than the last.

Viruses used to take months or years to spread, but current strains circle the globe in minutes via e-mail. What's more, the homogeneity of the computing world (with Microsoft's Windows, Word, and Outlook everywhere) makes it easy for viruses to infect millions of machines.

According to experts, future viruses won't need you to open an attachment or e-mail to begin inflicting harm; they'll simply activate when you check your e-mail program for new cor-respondence. We may also see cluster viruses that spawn miniviruses inside your system to attack various sectors and thwart scanning software. There are already cases of rogue Web sites that steal files or passwords from computers, as well as the first viruses for Palm PDAs. And viruses targeting mobile phones and Linux systems aren't far away. Eventually, viruses may be used as agents of cyberterrorism to attack government defence systems, steal data, and disable communications.

Educating yourself and securing your computer with the right tools can help you avoid trouble. The experts advise: disable macros in your applications; download patches for software holes; install a good virus scanner; and get weekly updates to the scanner to catch the latest culprits (for more virus prevention tips, see "Kill viruses before they infect your system").

  • The digital common cold

  • The origin of virus species

  • Melissa's contribution

  • The next generation

  • Beware of geeks bearing gifts

  • Future deterrence

  • Legal remedies

  • Kill viruses before they infect your system

    Join the PC World newsletter!

    Error: Please check your email address.
  • Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

    Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

    Kim Zetter

    PC World

    Most Popular Reviews

    Follow Us

    Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

    Shopping.com

    Latest News Articles

    Resources

    GGG Evaluation Team

    Kathy Cassidy

    STYLISTIC Q702

    First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

    Anthony Grifoni

    STYLISTIC Q572

    For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

    Steph Mundell

    LIFEBOOK UH574

    The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

    Andrew Mitsi

    STYLISTIC Q702

    The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

    Simon Harriott

    STYLISTIC Q702

    My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

    Latest Jobs

    Shopping.com

    Don’t have an account? Sign up here

    Don't have an account? Sign up now

    Forgot password?