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Why Should I Care?

The first virus ever written was an accident, sort of. The story goes that the software writer was trying to make a piece of software (later dubbed the Morris Internet worm) that was a “message in a bottle.” It would replicate until it got to the target system and then would pop up a message. Unfortunately, because of bugs in the code and changing disk-format standards, this “message” could end up scrambling data on floppy disks. That wasn’t the intention at all; it just worked out that way. The Morris Internet worm of those early Internet days was designed to be a self-replicating piece of software, but was supposed to replicate very slowly. Instead, a coding error or bug caused it to replicate very quickly, and it consumed system resources and literally brought the Internet to its knees.

How does all this affect you? First, the world of computer viruses is complex. People make and distribute viruses for a wide variety of reasons, from simple experimentation to clandestine international espionage. At the time of this writing, well over 48,000 viruses are known. Many of these viruses are harmless and easily controllable; some are not. The biggest problem is that these viruses are not very discerning—they attack anyone they can. If you do not protect yourself, you are eventually going to fall victim to one or more of them. Quite a few “virus creation kits” exist now for viruses and macro viruses. Even novice programmers can easily create viruses these days, unlike in the past when programmers needed reasonably advanced programming knowledge to write a “decent” virus. One thing should be painfully clear: what you don’t know about viruses can hurt you.


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