No Summer Break for Virus Writers

There's nothing like a new kind of virus to get computer users on edge, and last week there was a new one to contend with. Although it apparently isn't a widespread threat and has since been contained, what is dubbed the Scob Trojan is another example of a virus that uses a different mode of infection. Experts warned that new versions of this same type of attack could be coming, too.

Hackers planted malicious code into the Web servers for several reportedly popular sites, so that when users of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Internet Explorer visited the sites, their computers were redirected to a Russian one. There, a malicious Trojan program would download keystroke loggers, designed by virus-writing villains to log credit card numbers, account numbers, and passwords as users punch them in on the Internet.

At the beginning of this development, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, or CERT, and Internet Storm Center reportedly suggested that Windows users not use the most widespread Web browser out there -- Internet Explorer. (It seems that machines running Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and Linux operating systems were safe from the threat, including those using Internet Explorer for Mac.)

For Microsoft's part, it suggested that computer users turn the security to "high" on their browsers and released instructions for PC users to check if their machines are infected (important, since many machines may have been infiltrated unawares, before the Russian site was blocked) and to install anti-virus software updates. In addition, Bill Gates vowed today that his company will shorten the time it takes to develop and release patches dealing with viral threats -- but enlisted users' help by allowing for auto updates, for example.

Just recently, the monetary threat of viruses became clear as we explored how even a hardware maker like Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) had reason to worry. At the same time, Microsoft was planning to get into anti-virus software, despite what many consider its sketchy track record on security. Then, similar threats reared up in a brand-new sector, as W.D. Crotty discussed the first-ever mobile-phone worm.

Microsoft's stake in this is, of course, very high -- security concerns surrounding the giant are not a new topic. If incidents like this continue, might loads of people start using Netscape, Mozilla, Opera, or other Web browsers? Or switch to Apple or Linux? Since this virus was planted in websites' servers, on the corporate side, will it encourage more rapid adoption of Linux servers? After all, many people consider the ubiquity of Microsoft to be a veritable breeding ground for viral threats.

Going forward, though, with e-commerce becoming more and more popular, countless technological concerns have a serious stake in making sure the public retains its trust. Otherwise, the growing popularity of e-commerce could fizzle out.

Having virus or other computer-related problems? Consult the Help with this STUPID computer! discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. She occasionally uses Mozilla.


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