Explain the difficulty of creating a computer virus and discuss the frequency with which this happens.
Creating a virus is not difficult in technical sense. However, in order for a virus to be efficient, the following requirements should be met:
• The targeted operating system should be popular or wide-spread;
• The operating system should have adequate and sufficient documentation;
• The creator of the virus should be aware of any vulnerability in the system’s security (Kaspersky Lab, n.d.).
Without meeting all of these necessary requirements, the virus will not be able to cause sufficient damage or fulfill any other malicious purpose on a massive scale. Moreover, choosing a method of execution and propagation is another difficulty one may experience while creating malware. Virus creators should choose a technique to hide their code. One of the options is to implement overwriting virus, which replaces executable code with itself. It will cause an infected program to crash and hang the machine upon execution, and consequently make the virus visible. On the contrary, non-overwriting add to the length of programs, which makes them even easier to detect. However, some techniques, such as JUMPing, allow malware to remain hidden from the user and antivirus software (Ritstein, 1992, p. 3-4).
New computer viruses are created very frequently. According to Kaspersky Lab (2012), about 2.7 million novel modifications of viruses were detected during 2012. On average, in the year 2012, about 200,000 viruses have been appearing every day.
Explain the difference between a virus and a worm, and describe how the respective threat levels compare.
Viruses need human intervention in order to spread. Viruses spread upon execution of infected programs. A worm is a different type of malware, as it requires no human involvement. Once activated, a worm takes action to replicate itself and contaminates computer after computer much faster than a usual virus. Worms pose a serious danger to the security of large organizations, because they can start spreading without any sign of a threat and put the complete network down before the organization can notice their activity (Gregory, 2011).
A virus is considered less dangerous as it can damage an individual computer. Worms have more extensive effect. In 2001, The Code Red worm made over 250,000 copies of itself for nine hours, slowing down the Internet. The ILOVEYOU virus, which started in 2000, spread across the globe within a day through e-mails. It contaminated 10% of world’s computers and caused about $5.5 billion in damage (Computer virus vs. computer worm, 2012).
Address the questions: Are non-Microsoft operating systems less prone to virus attack? Why or why not?
Although the majority of viruses are created for Windows, the other operating systems are not invincible to attacks. However, some of them are considered more protected. For instance, Mac OS is partially resistant to viruses due to “security through obscurity” concept. Apple keeps a closed system policy, which means that Apple itself creates the prevailing majority of its hardware and software, thus keeping Macs obscure. Virus written for Macs will not spread as extensively as it could spread on PCs under similar circumstances (Strickland, n.d.). However, when Mac users download non-Apple production or disable security application, they make their computers as vulnerable as Windows-operated ones (Hoffman, 2013)
Devices that work on Android OS have similar issues. By default, a user is not supposed to install applications acquired from anywhere outside Google Play. Thus, in this case, the user is safe, as Google scans all its apps for viruses. So, when a user disables a protection and gets his application from third-party developers, he becomes exposed to malicious attacks (Hoffman, 2013).
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Linux OS is considered one of the least prone systems to malicious attacks. The main reason for this is that very few users use it. Due to more complex architecture than in Windows or Mac, Linux users tend to be more perceptive in terms of computer security. Since the source of Linux programs is only one, the computers cannot become infected by the usual Windows-like means, such as downloading software from websites.
Anyway, it does not mean that Linux OS is invincible. For instance, the Trojan Hand of Thief is able to infect many Linux distributions and steal online banking data. However, it is limited in the ways of getting into systems, as one has to download it or receive by e-mail and launch it (Hoffman, 2013). Therefore, running only trusted software can grant a high-level security on Linux.