Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 22nd Jan 2006 12:50 UTC
Bugs & Viruses "It was during the opening weeks of 1986 that the first PC virus, called Brain, was discovered in the wild. Though it achieved fame because it was the first of its type, the virus was not widespread as it could only travel by hitching a ride on floppy disks swapped between users. Now 20 years after they first appeared there are more than 150000 malicious programs in existence."
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PC was behind on Apple back then
by Ronald Vos on Sun 22nd Jan 2006 13:04 UTC
Ronald Vos
Member since:
2005-07-06

Elk Cloner, the first home computer virus, was on the Apple II, in 1982. ;)

EDIT: kinda odd to say the Brain virus is extinct. I'd say 'dormant' is more like it. I'm not the only one nutty enough to collect computer viruses back in the day.

Edited 2006-01-22 13:09

Reply Score: 2

Anti-Virus Companies Write the Viruses
by Dano on Sun 22nd Jan 2006 15:10 UTC
Dano
Member since:
2006-01-22

My suspicions: I honestly believe that some of these viruses are too sophisticated to be written entirely by amature programmers. They do a lot of damage and transfer themselves in very slick ways. I believe that at least a large percentage of today's current viruses are written by the anti-virus companies themselves, and launched against users to perpetuate antivirus program renewals/subscriptions. Why would so many viruses be created by amature programmers with so much skill, when these programmers could be taking the time to write something that they could actually earn money with...a useful program? It's just a vicious conspiracy that no one has picked up on. Now, I just wish I had some hard proof of this.

How do the anti-virus companies come out with an antedote hours after the virus is in the wild?

>>The most significant change has been the evolution of virus writing hobbyists into criminally operated gangs bent on financial gain," said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at Finnish anti-virus firm F-Secure.

--Gangs of programmers at the anti-virus companies looking for renewed subscriptions? You decide!

Dano.

Edited 2006-01-22 15:15

Reply Score: 2

Sphinx Member since:
2005-07-09

Heck of a conspiracy theory there. With the right screenplay...

Reply Score: 1

Buck Member since:
2005-06-29

It's a well-known thing. No proof of that but yeah... It is believed that maybe not all, but the worst, most devastating viruses are written by major antivrus companies. Russian Kaspersky labs is one of them. However, it may already be a thing of the past, they used this method as a tool to promote their products. After all... this sounds reasonable. Imagine a brilliant virus writer who one day thought "this is boring, I gotta make money out of this as well".

Reply Score: 0

Jedd Member since:
2005-07-06

To be honest, I've thought that for a long time. I mean I know there are black hat hackers out there who write them, but I've thought that AV companies themselves write some of the really sophisticated ones to sell their product. (Job security I guess :-p )

It might sound like a "conspiracy theory" but hey, it makes some sense, at least to me; and to you =). I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that AV companies are not all "above board".

/opinion

Reply Score: 1

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

It might sound like a "conspiracy theory" but hey, it makes some sense, at least to me; and to you =). I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that AV companies are not all "above board".

I think if they were doing that, somebody on the outside would've found out about it by now. If I went to work for one of the AV companies and found out this was going on, I wouldn't hesitate to spill the beans, even if it meant a possible jail sentence for breaking whatever NDA they have in place.

Reply Score: 1

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Yeah sure. Settled, legal companies, also from the US end Europe, will risk their entire livelihood and company to write viruses. You do know how completely ridicoulous that sounds, right?

Governments all over the world actively SEEK virus writers to put them behind bars. So, there's a big chance one of Symantec's employees is arrested... You really think they will take that HUGE gamble? Hello, this is ground control to major Tom, please get your feet back firmly on the ground, please.

Can we please get back to ordinary discussions? For people who believe this crap, there's sites for people like you, this one is a good start: http://zapatopi.net/blackhelicopters/ .

Have fun.

Reply Score: 5

Dano Member since:
2006-01-22

>>Yeah sure. Settled, legal companies, also from the US end Europe, will risk their entire livelihood and company to write viruses. You do know how completely ridicoulous that sounds, right?

But anti-virus software IS their livelyhood...are you saying that legal corporations always do things...above board?

Dano

Reply Score: 1

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Dano, read the rest of my post.

I'm trying to stay polite here. I really HATE these conspiracy people. Really.

Reply Score: 5

Buck Member since:
2005-06-29

Thom, I guess nobody really wants to know how much you "really really" HATE and who. Leave the hate to yourself. People were only sharing their opinion.

Reply Score: 1

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

People were only sharing their opinion.

No, they were sharing things they perceive as facts. That's a huge difference.

The thing is, there is absolutely NO kind of proof ANYWHERE that antivirus companies are writing viruses. NOWHERE. I might as well say that Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, and Linus torvalds are IN FACT one and the same person. There's no proof for it; but not having proof apparantly doesn't seem to stop people from believing utter nonsense.

Reply Score: 5

DigitalAxis Member since:
2005-08-28

And none have been seen in the same place at the same time as Santa Claus! Holy Doublecross, Batman!

...This reminds me of the time I wrote a little C program that would just keep writing the same string into a file until the hard drive was full. Then I found out Windows ME wouldn't let you delete files with .dll extensions...
I fixed it, but... well, I'd like to think I've gotten somewhat smarter since then.

You can probably still find plenty of people who would run an attachment called "This is a virus.exe". It's a sad world out there.

Reply Score: 1

Dano Member since:
2006-01-22

>>People were only sharing their opinion.

>>No, they were sharing things they perceive as facts. That's a huge difference.

That's crazy. I never said it was a fact. In FACT, I said I had no proof in my first post!

Dano.

Reply Score: 1

Get a Life Member since:
2006-01-01

When proposing malice by specific parties in public, one should either have evidence or shut up. It is inappropriate to suggest that people engage in such behavior sans evidence. That is gossip, and it's socially harmful.

Reply Score: 2

Dano Member since:
2006-01-22

>>I'm trying to stay polite here. I really HATE these conspiracy people. Really.

Never considered myself a conspiracy theorist. This thought just came into my mind a few times, and apparently it has in others also. I actually am an electrical engineer and computer scientist...and I do believe that we actually landed on the moon! At least the notion got everyone thinking.

>>When proposing malice by specific parties in public, one should either have evidence or shut up. It is inappropriate to suggest that people engage in such behavior sans evidence. That is gossip, and it's socially harmful.

Socially harmful? It's not like yelling fire in a crowded theater. I mean, since when do we all have to shut up in order to be socially responsible? It is a lame idea to hold your thoughts back from friends in order to satisfy the politically correct thought police ...some company(ies) might assume you are talking about them!

Dano.

Reply Score: 1

Andrew Youll Member since:
2005-06-29

This is Off-Topic but it annoys the hell out of me, an Electrical Engineer is infact an engineer who part takes in engineering problems pertaining to actual Electricity, not Electronics.

sorry just one of my pet peeves, as I am an actual Electrical Engineer, with cables, and everything lol

Reply Score: 5

Kroc Member since:
2005-11-10

trust me, they don't. Norton sell a false sense of security, not an antivirus product.

Reply Score: 4

Aussie_Bear Member since:
2006-01-12

Dano...You have no idea, do you?

Malware are (today) written by folks who earn their money from "bad guys". Take for example, the Russian mafia hires hackers to break into banks, gambling services, credit facilities, etc so they can extort money out of them.

Others are working with spammers and such to spread their message in a very intrusive way. Both are connected.

Some are patriotic crackers, and will do nasty things to defend their country. As well, they may compromise a site just to spread some political message. A common one I've noticed is those coming from the Middle-East, telling America should leave, and Iran has the right to use nuclear power for its own needs. They usually attack public forums. (via exploits that haven't been patched yet...Because the admin hasn't updated!)

Others do it so they can set up a country so the patriotic ones attack that country without realising they're hitting the wrong target!

Example: It has been established that a European cracker used his abilities to attack Chinese systems. He was hiding under the identity as an American. He posted various messages. The tone was extremely patriotic. He used compromised US-based servers as his tools.

This pissed off the Chinese crackers. So they spent a week or two continually attacking American based sites. After about two weeks, they decided to conduct a cease fire. (I think they were just tired). ;)

If you look at the recent 2005 FBI Computer Crime Survey (CCS), you see on page9, Question 12...50% of intrusion attempts come from both China and USA.

This doesn't necessarily mean crackers come from there, it could be European or any other based crackers using compromised Chinese or American based servers to attack both. You don't know.



How do the anti-virus companies come out with an antedote hours after the virus is in the wild?

They get samples from three sources...

(1) From their customers. (who sent in samples they've encountered).

(2) They've setup Honeypots/nets to "capture" samples.

(3) They go pro-active and look for malware on the web.



The things is, you don't have any hard proof of your theory. You're just going with some BS someone started spreading.

Its no different to that dude who created a 9/11 film claiming the USAF delibrately crashed an intelligence gathering plane based on the Boeing 767. Proper analysis showed that the idiot couldn't tell the difference between the United Airlines paint job and a USAF sensor pod under the fuselage. (He definitely was no aero engineer, but a no-clue film maker looking to cash on conspiracy theories and 9/11)...Unfortunately, people buy into that BS.


The key point is, malware and the internet, have given anyone the tools to become a serious threat to any country. With no guidance to know the responsibilities of right and wrong, its no different to giving a double-barrel shotgun to a toddler.

Reply Score: 2

rhetoric.sendmemoney Member since:
2006-01-22

Holy crud,

Thats intelligent and informative. Thanks!

sinc

Reply Score: 1

Dano Member since:
2006-01-22

I never said I had any "Proof". Just a suspicion...You have no proof that is does not go on. It's still plausible.

Dano.

Reply Score: 1

Ronald Vos Member since:
2005-07-06

Do AV companies write the viruses? Here's the response by Alan Solomon, maker of Dr Solomon, on Slashdot:
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=33554&cid=3628217

I recommend reading it; I had the same suspicions many others had, untill I read his posts in that thread.

Reply Score: 1

Dano Member since:
2006-01-22

That is like asking the fox if he ate any hens when he was in the chicken coop...proves nothing.

Dano

Reply Score: 1

Ronald Vos Member since:
2005-07-06

That is like asking the fox if he ate any hens when he was in the chicken coop...proves nothing.

True, but he gives several good reasons why AV makers producing viruses and releasing them in the wild is unlikely.

Reply Score: 1

happycamper Member since:
2006-01-01

How foolish?, it's like saying governments bio-engineer human viruses and bacteria like AIDS and others.

Reply Score: 1

Tyr. Member since:
2005-07-06

How foolish?, it's like saying governments bio-engineer human viruses and bacteria like AIDS and others.

No because they wouldn't profit from that. It's more akin to a country selling weapons to another country and then attacking it, ostensibly because it poses a threat, so they can profit from it. Of course we know something like this never happens ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId... ) , right ?

And they don't have to actually employ virus writers. Some anonymous info in the right IRC channel could work wonders.

Edit: replaced link to point to more reputable source.

Edited 2006-01-22 18:56

Reply Score: 1

hraq Member since:
2005-07-06

"Why would so many viruses be created by amature programmers with so much skill, when these programmers could be taking the time to write something that they could actually earn money with"

I would answer your question if you answer mine; Why would those programmers hack, crack and key generate these applications then publish them online via torrents even from their own computers?!

Reply Score: 1

Dano Member since:
2006-01-22

>>I would answer your question if you answer mine; Why would those programmers hack, crack and key generate these applications then publish them online via torrents even from their own computers?!

By applications, you mean legitimate ones? Because by hacking a legitimate program and giving a keygen away, it makes them feel like they are better than the guy (or corporation) who developed the application's security system...? Internalized ego. That is why I used to do that kind of stuff.

Dano.

Reply Score: 1

Celerate Member since:
2005-06-29

"Why would so many viruses be created by amature programmers with so much skill, when these programmers could be taking the time to write something that they could actually earn money with...a useful program?"

They probably aren't all amateurs, but make no mistake there is money to be made in writing viruses. Did you ever consider the viruses that open back doors and install software for botnets. Spammers pay significant sums of money to get access to these, and script kiddies usually find out how to exploit the backdoors on their own so they can get DDoS networks. In the end someone gets money, someone has a network of computer for spamming, and someone has themselves a DDoS network. At least two of those people then make money, the third could too if (s)he decided to resort to extortion.

I have no doubt there's toolkits out there for making viruses too, those could simplify the process a lot while still producing a sophistocated piece of malware. Then you have the source code to some viruses being released or leaked to the public, people can just look at those and learn from that while adapting it into their own viruses.

You don't give independent people enough credit. Believe me, companies aren't necessarily more skilled or professional just because they have a name you can recognize.

Reply Score: 1

n4cer Member since:
2005-07-06

I don't think the top AV/security vendors distribute viruses/malware to bolster sales, however, Mark Russinovich has an entry on his blog about lower-tier antispyware vendors using spyware to get people to buy their (in some cases ineffective) products.

http://www.sysinternals.com/blog/2006/01/antispyware-conspiracy.htm...

Reply Score: 1

150,000 malicious programs?
by JustAnotherMacUser on Sun 22nd Jan 2006 16:01 UTC
JustAnotherMacUser
Member since:
2006-01-08

I hate to rub it guys, but the fact is I have been using Mac's ever since they came out and only got 1 disk based Mac virus 17 years ago. (Classic OS, WDEF came on a game disk)

Yes I have been trading files and been on the internet all that time as well.

There is entirely no excuse for the level of malware we see in the world today. Viruses and malware propagation require a weaken unhealthy host, a healthy host can get infected, but it fights it off rapidly.

And before the "security through obscurity" people respond, there are over 25 million very tempting targets of us Mac users, often newbies that have come to trust doing things online with their credit cards and personal information.

Plus it would be rather 733t for a hax0r to finally create a Mac OS X virus or malware that would take us for a horrifying spin and possibly even line their pockets to boot.

But so far, all these years, Mac OS X is pretty solid, it had a few cracks yes, but they don't remain long and the underlining compartmentalized security of Mac OS X keeps things from getting out of hand.

We don't need anti-malware program eating up our cycles and running as root just to be exploited (NortonAV), although using something like ClamXav on standby or before passing Windows files to other Windows users seems to be called for.

I also don't suffer stress from using my computer, reading one exploit after another, it just works and works reliably, uptime's measured in months, not days.

Computing should work for us and not us for it.

Cheers ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE: 150,000 malicious programs?
by dylansmrjones on Sun 22nd Jan 2006 16:07 UTC in reply to "150,000 malicious programs?"
dylansmrjones Member since:
2005-10-02

Well, don't forget the many macro viruses for Word (incl. Word for Mac).

But that is of course also true for people running MS Word on Wine.

But it's no surprise Mac OS X is relatively unscathed, considering the fundament beneath it ;)

Reply Score: 1

rhetoric.sendmemoney Member since:
2006-01-22

Yeah, I had the same experience back in the DOS days. 8 years without a virus or reboot! Ah the glory days...

I really should check out this whole Mac thing, it will go great with my miracle healing water and other "no, seriously, it really works!" testimonials I have come to believe from any old person off the street.

To the topic at hand (almost), why does it seem like NortonAV insists on taking over your computer? If I had a dollar for everytime my CivIV game has crashed because Norton decided that it wanted to scan my computer in the middle of the day. Anyone care to make a recommendation for a nonobtrusive AV proggie? I feel like feeding the black helicopters.

sinc
(EDIT: Typos)

Edited 2006-01-22 17:36

Reply Score: 1

RE: 150,000 malicious programs?
by Rev.Tig on Sun 22nd Jan 2006 19:04 UTC in reply to "150,000 malicious programs?"
Rev.Tig Member since:
2005-11-28

***Warning – Non Serious Humour Attempt Below***

The only reason there are few virii for the Mac is that no virus writers have worked out how to make a pastel coloured virus ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE: 150,000 malicious programs?
by korpenkraxar on Mon 23rd Jan 2006 13:10 UTC in reply to "150,000 malicious programs?"
korpenkraxar Member since:
2005-09-10

I agree. It is strange that there are so few virii/malware released for any popular UNIX-like OS, such as OSX, BSD or GNU/Linux.

I mean, those platforms are fairly homogenous after all, and even if the virus can not gain root access and set up a zombie machine, something very simple like an unauthorised 'rmm -rF ~/* && c=1; until [ "$c" = "1" ] ; do echo $RANDOM >> $RANDOM.f_u_c_k_e_d; done ;' run accidently by the normal user via a glitch in a browser or something could be completely devastating for the user.

TINY MODIFICATIONS/CORRECTIONS TO THAT COMMAND WILL DELETE THE USERS' FILES AND WRITE RANDOM DATA TO THE DISK! DO NOT RUN THAT COMMAND ON YOUR SYSTEM! I CAN NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR DATA LOSS IF YOU ACTIVELY MODIFY AND RUN THAT COMMAND. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

On my laptop, that echo loop (if corrected) generates 40 megs of random disk data in five seconds, so that can quickly start overwriting real data. It can very easily be modified to overwrite each file in all subdirectories with random data as well.

My day would be ruined if I lost large chunks of my data, assuming that I did not have any backups. I fear the day when these things start to appear in Linux and other UNICes because a lot of harm can be done to users with simple user authority, but as someone pointed out earlier in the thread, maybe those platforms need to become more profitable before we see virii and anti-virii services :-)

Reply Score: 1

archiesteel Member since:
2005-07-02

Fortunately, you can't make a file executable just by giving it the appropriate file extension. This greatly reduces the risk of such destructive scripts.

Reply Score: 2

konkat
Member since:
2005-11-13

Not sure what they define as records and also not sure if they were only loading records that could effect my operating system or if they were loading records for all known exploits and operating systems.

Viruses are not being written for Mac for the same reason games are not being written for Mac. Pre-OSX versions of MacOS were not being targeted by virus writers. Would you say that MacOS 8 is an extremely secure operating system ?

Reply Score: 3

Toolkits (and business tricks)
by JustThinkIt on Sun 22nd Jan 2006 17:12 UTC
JustThinkIt
Member since:
2005-09-04

Virus writers have had toolkits for years. In an OO environment they crank out "new" viruses like designer drugs, each with a different signature. Since anti-virus products work with signatures, if you change that they have to respond. But on the other hand AV companies can generate a new signature for a new virus very quickly. Hence the large number of viruses, and the relatively quick generation of signatures i.e. ability to quickly detect new threats.

One thing the AV writers _can_ be accused of is ONLY adding signatures. That way you have to keep paying them. Many years back they bragged about being able to detect new threats before they hit but then they quietly stopped peddling these features as they realized this would kill the need for constant upgrades.

This is the same game that Microsoft plays with Windows. They never ever want to introduce the perfect OS, that would be a financial disaster. Instead they generate a lot of business just due to the churn of new hardware -- it needs to be supported and "for some reason" only the latest version of Windows supports it the best. On the features front, they gradually fix old (and usually deliberate) bugs while they introduce new and ever more subtle ones.

For example, USB was not supported on Windows 9x for long enough to push people away from that OS. Today one can download a non-Microsoft service pack that gives you USB support on Windows 98, and this probably annoying MS to no end, but the damage is done.

Microsoft will probably do the same thing with HD-DVD and Blu-Ray -- it will only be properly supported by them on Vista.

For Linux to defeat Microsoft, they have to make an OS that is as good as MS Windows, but without the deliberate defects. But again, if you are Red Hat do you _really_ want to do that???

Reply Score: 2

RE: Toolkits (and business tricks)
by Wrawrat on Sun 22nd Jan 2006 23:17 UTC in reply to "Toolkits (and business tricks)"
Wrawrat Member since:
2005-06-30

For example, USB was not supported on Windows 9x for long enough to push people away from that OS. Today one can download a non-Microsoft service pack that gives you USB support on Windows 98, and this probably annoying MS to no end, but the damage is done.

Drifting a bit off-topic... There is USB support in Windows since the revision "C" of Windows 95[1]. That revision was restricted for OEMs, though.

Windows 98 supported generic UHCI/OHCI USB controllers regardless of the version (retail or OEM, FE or SE). I remember buying a USB gamepad when I was using Windows 98. I just plugged it and it was working.

[1]: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/q253756/

Reply Score: 2

BluenoseJake Member since:
2005-08-11

Windows 98 has usb support. that's the problems with conspiracy theories, you have to bend the facts to meet the theory, when a good theory fits the facts

Reply Score: 1

archiesteel
Member since:
2005-07-02

I'm trying to stay polite here.

As you should. You're an editor of OSNews, you have to keep a certain level of decorum.

Look, I completely agree with you that it would make no sense for AV companies to write viruses. The risks are simply much too great. However, I encourage you to present arguments to support this opinion without having to take an agressive tone towards those who think otherwise. You don't persuade people by telling them that they're stupid to believe in something, however outlandish that thing is.

I really appreciate the work you do for OSNews, but I do think you often come out as a little abrasive when you participate in discussions...I wouldn't mind this kind of participation in a blog, but for a News site it does come across as a bit unprofessional.

Anyway, my 2 cents. Feel free to mod this down as it is COMPLETELY off-topic! :-)

Reply Score: 1

lol...
by helf on Sun 22nd Jan 2006 21:14 UTC
helf
Member since:
2005-07-06

people can make a conspiracy about anything. its funny.

please stop posting that crap here. very few people want to hear your 'opinion'. its pure speculation, and annoying.

stop.
please.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Toolkits (and business tricks)
by archiesteel on Sun 22nd Jan 2006 23:35 UTC
archiesteel
Member since:
2005-07-02

True...then again I had the hardest time getting an Epson USB Color Inkjet printer working with my ex-girlfriend's Windows 98 PC.

So, yeah, Win98 had USB support, but it was flakey in my experience. Fortunately MS got it right with Win2K on...

Reply Score: 1

DeadFishMan Member since:
2006-01-09

I also remember having problems installing USB webcams on Windows 98. Some time ago I worked on a small repair shop and more often than not, we were asked to install a newer devices on ancient hardware. Back to the webcams specifically, some non-brand manufacturers (which often sent only a paper with a few directions in English and Chinese along with the webcam) strongly recommended to install the drivers prior to plugging the webcam to the PC running Windows 98, otherwise you would be risking having the OS not recognizing the webcam anymore no matter what you do.

And I tried all the tricks that were effective then, including deleting several INF files and forcing hardware detections after that. Skimming a few hardware sites out there, you could see that this was fairly common back then.

My experience suggests that Windows ME was more reliable on that front though, despite it being one of the most hated OSes ever released by MS. Go figure! :-)

Thatīs why I have to agree with both of you. USB was a bit flakey on Windows 98 and mostly on a hit or miss basis.

EDIT: Typos

Edited 2006-01-23 03:26

Reply Score: 1