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The Virus Underground

NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/08/magazine/08WORMS.html

"Philet0ast3r, Second Part to Hell, Vorgon and guys like them around the world spend their Saturday nights writing fiendishly contagious computer viruses and worms. Are they artists, pranksters or techno-saboteurs? "

Wow.  You get the feeling that the virus writers are out saving the world, while Clive Thompson proclaims the 'script kiddies' who actually release the virus are the real baddies.   

Here's a juicy quote from one of the virus writers' friend:  'This guy,' he proclaimed, 'is the best at Visual Basic.'

Michael H. Pryor
Fog Creek Software
Friday, February 06, 2004

What's up with the picture of the dude with his shirt off?

enlightened one
Friday, February 06, 2004

Stephen Mathieson -- next year's "Androgynous Virus Writer of the Year” winner.

MR
Friday, February 06, 2004

Is Philet0ast3r related to Philo?

Zahid
Friday, February 06, 2004

I thought the virus writers were generally pretty young -- like 13-14. Maybe that was back when most viruses were written in assembly language instead of some flavor of Visual Basic.

Warren Henning
Friday, February 06, 2004

>I thought the virus writers were generally pretty young -- like 13-14.

That was back when they were 13-14 years old.

Time Machine
Friday, February 06, 2004

I wonder if I moved back in with my parents like all these h8k0rs and started causing billions in damage, if I could be popular and cool.

Burning SUV lots is so passe and its what, a million bucks in damage? Chump change! Real terrorists go for max terror. The price tag on the latest virus is already larger than the entire price tag for 9-11 damages.

Cornholio
Friday, February 06, 2004

I'm just now reading the article, but first paragraph in, and already I'm laughing...

"He pops into his laptop the CD of Iron Maiden's 'Number of the Beast,' his latest favorite album."

CD?  What kind of virus-writing revolutionist listens to CD's?

Andrew Burton
Friday, February 06, 2004

Why do people even read these newspapers?  They leave so much out.  I'm sure the guys were talking about the guy best at Haskell, and then someone made a sarcastic crack about VB.  Which the reporter took seriously.

In fact, they were probably researching a completely reversible, nonentropic virus or something.  But nope, we just think they're shirtless social rejects who live with their parents and doubleclick on their own viruses.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Friday, February 06, 2004

Surely if these kids want to be cool they should be hanging around on street corners drinking cheap bottles of cider and acting tough... I mean that's what I did when I was under 18 and I turned out alright.

John C
Friday, February 06, 2004

"The price tag on the latest virus is already larger than the entire price tag for 9-11 damages."
That's ridiculous. Computer viruses are a pain and I'm sure there is some real non trivial economic cost but numbers like this are just plain silly. Sombody pulled that out of.. well out of somewhere because they wanted to sell more anti-virus software.

Ken McKinney
Saturday, February 07, 2004

>>>
"He pops into his laptop the CD of Iron Maiden's 'Number of the Beast,' his latest favorite album."

CD?  What kind of virus-writing revolutionist listens to CD's?
<<<

At least he has good taste in music.

Run To The Hills
Saturday, February 07, 2004

Anyone know where you can find those "academic paper"-like explanations of their viruses?  I've never seen those, all I've seen is what has come into my inbox.  I'd be interested to see an explanation of some of them to see if they're really such works of art.

I'm sure they have to be pretty clever, and it is probably worlds away from the code I write and see every day at my job.

Rob
Saturday, February 07, 2004

> The price tag on the latest virus is already larger
> than the entire price tag for 9-11 damages.

Really ? How low did you put the price tag for a human life to get to this... hmm... interesting... result ? :-(

How much for a job ? Even in my tiny country an ocean away from New York, 9/11 resulted in economical catastrophes such as an airlines company bankrupt which led to 12000 direct job losses (+ indirect job losses).

Which virus did you say comes even close to these figures ?

Serge Wautier
Saturday, February 07, 2004

""The price tag on the latest virus is already larger than the entire price tag for 9-11 damages."

That's arguable, but geesh..To even put the human costs of 9/11 and the economic cost of viruses on the same footing is a bit callous.

Last I checked, we didn't have thousands of people being incinerated and jumping to their deaths to escape an inferno because of Blaster or MyDoom.

Mark Hoffman
Saturday, February 07, 2004

These "price tag" numbers come from the Idiot IT Research Companies I like to make fun of, like Stupider, er, Jupiter, And Gartner, and Giga, and Forrester, etc., who are paid big bucks to "estimate" the costs of malware in ways that are useful to the advertising departments of makers of security products, virus scanning software companies, etc.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Saturday, February 07, 2004

The consultant joke could have been written for Gartner. They go and talk to lots of MIS executives who, by definition, are just following everyone else, then they spin the results into a report and for some reason people pay a lot of money for them.

Of course, the people who pay a lot of money for them are the same MIS executives who haven't had an original thought since they finished their accounting degree. But I digress.


Sunday, February 08, 2004

Rob asked about where to find "academic paper" like descriptions of various viruses.

Some sites worth checking out if you're interested in this sort of thing:

http://www.peterszor.com/
http://securityfocus.com/infocus/virus
http://www.research.ibm.com/antivirus/SciPapers.htm
http://www.pcvirus.org/links

Mike Treit
Sunday, February 08, 2004

A lot of the "official" price tags for these viruses ultimately have their source from Computer Economics, Inc.  Rob Rosenberger at http://www.vmyths.com does a pretty good job of blowing holes in all these numbers on a regular basis.

From his rant http://vmyths.com/rant.cfm?id=314&page=4 :

"See if you notice a pattern in their {ahem} authoritative figures:

5 May: $2.7 billion* and 45 million casualties
8 May: $4.7 billion (no revised casualties)
9 May: $6.7 billion (no revised casualties)
5 Jan: $8.7 billion (no revised casualties)

It looks like Computer Economics, Inc. used the function
f(x) = 2.7 + 2x to calculate ILoveYou's global impact."

Nick
Sunday, February 08, 2004

Virus creator acceptance speech.

First off, I'd like to thank Microsoft for making this all possible...

Mike
Sunday, February 08, 2004

>Anyone know where you can find those "academic paper"-like explanations of their viruses? 

The closest I've seen to "academic" work on explaining the hows of computer viruses is the now dated book called
"The little black book of computer viruses". It dates back from the time you needed assembly language to write self replicating code. It's now available as PDF, since its outdated it has no value to real virus writers these days, but it explains in great detail the internal workings of viruses.

Patrik
Monday, February 09, 2004

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