What you didn't get for Christmas: viruses

As many businesses were closed between Christmas and New Year, viruses could have struck as offices went back online this morning. Nothing has happened so far, however.

"There was absolutely no outbreak of viruses this morning. We did not get any problem reports at all from Europe or Asia. I expect it to stay quiet," said Marius van Oers, virus research engineer at McAfee, a division of Network Associates.

Looking back, Van Oers said this year's holiday season is much like last year's. It was predicted that the date changeover to 2000 would entice virus makers to create programs that would execute midnight on December 31, 1999. Like this season, silence ruled.

McAfee was one of the antivirus vendors that warned against holiday virus appearances this year. The company issued a news release late December saying over 1000 users had been affected by "holiday-oriented viruses." McAfee "cautioned" that several of the viruses were designed to hide and then affect computers on or around Christmas day.

"You can see this as a proactive warning, the chance of anything actually happening is pretty slim. If we don't put out warnings and a virus does hit our customers will be indignant," Van Oers said.

The US National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) on December 29 warned against distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks. This kind of attack can paralyse a Web site by flooding the server with information requests.

"There were no DDOS attacks either," Van Oers said, adding that it was expected there would be more DDOS attacks than virus trouble.

DDOS attacks are staged with the use of many computers connected to the Internet. Hackers hijack computers by sending a Trojan horse program. Antivirus software can intercept such programs.

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Joris Evers

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