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Virus writers face off

It seems that a virus author’s worst nightmare isn’t getting caught by law enforcement after all, but rather being upstaged by other virus writers.

It seems that a virus author’s worst nightmare isn’t getting caught by law enforcement after all, but rather being upstaged by other virus writers.

While individuals and companies are reeling from a series of serious viruses that have clogged e-mail accounts, slowed services, and even resulted in denial of service attacks, the evidence is mounting that the virus writers are engaging in their own private feud over who can do the most damage.

The press has already dubbed this reckless phenomenon the "war of the worms".

The three main viruses embroiled in his battle are newcomers Netsky and Bagle, and the veteran MyDoom, which at its zenith in January was the fastest spreading and most infectious virus of all time. I’m still getting the e-mails from MyDoom and MyDoom derivatives – that sucker just won’t die.

The whole quarrel supposedly began when Bagle’s creator became jealous when Netsky stole his media limelight. The verbal jabs in this battle are variations of the virus that contain messages inside them that attack their opponents. Now there are nine known versions of Bagle, six known versions of Netsky and about seven known versions of MyDoom making the rounds.

Here’s a sample of the battle for hearts and minds between the virus authors:

Bagle.J says "Hey, NetSky, F– off you bitch, don’t ruine our business, wanna start a war?"

Bagle.K added "Hey, NetSky, F– off you bitch!"

To which Netsky.F responded "Skynet AntiVirus — Bagle — you are a looser!!!"

Netsky.D said "be aware!…"

And Netsky.C said "we are the skynet — you can’t hide yourself! — we kill malware … MyDoom.F is a thief of our idea! … SkyNet AV vs. Malware"

MyDoom, dragged into the battle, replied "to netsky’s creator(s): imho, skynet is a decentralized peer-to-peer neural network. We have seen P2P in Slapper in Sinit only. .they may be called skynets, but not your S–ty app."

One variant after another of these devastating worm viruses in coming down the pike, each claiming thousands of innocent bystanders who were dumb enough to help them spread by opening the wrong e-mail attachments.

At least we’re learning something important about the virus writers out there – all of them appear to have dropped out of Grade 10 English.

E-mail stamps proposed to end spam

You think you get a lot of junkmail now, imagine what would happen if Canada Post delivered free of charge?

According to some Internet leaders, including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, the solution in ridding the world of spam may be to charge e-mail users for online stamps.

The figure being used to justify a user-pay system is a penny a day – not much for the average person who only sends a few e-mails a day, but a hefty fee for spammers who have lists of millions of names to exploit.

Although Microsoft has been working on this idea behind closed doors for a few years now, it wasn’t until Gates brought it to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January that the concept really entered the mainstream.

As an alternative to a pay system, it has been suggested that e-mail users can trade CPU time for e-mails – say 10 seconds of computing time for each e-mail. Send six e-mails in one day and on your coffee break your computer could be commandeered to help solve a math problem.

SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence has been doing this kind of thing for years, using tens of thousands of home computers after hours to sift through the mountains of data collected by radio telescopes. Connect enough computers together, and you can have a supercomputer in no time.

The benefit of this system is that it would still be free, but the 10 second price tag would be too much for spammers who send millions of messages every day. You would only need to send 8,640 messages to require a whole day of computer time. A million messages would require more than 115 days to pay off.

Given these two alternatives, the pay system is less popular that the time system. For people who depend on e-mail at work, or use e-mail to stay in touch with relatives, customers, subscribers and support networks, the costs could add up rather quickly.

There is some concern that a pay system would stifle the free exchange of ideas and information the Internet, at its best, represents.

Some argue that computer users already do pay by purchasing computers and other e-mail devices, and by paying Internet Service Providers monthly fees.

It’s likely that nothing is going to happen for a long time. One reason is that there is no world governing institution controlling the Internet to administer any kind of pay or time system. Another reason is the ingenuity of programmers in getting around pay systems – if companies can’t put a stop to music trading, and the exchange of 3MB to 10 MB files, how do they propose to control the exchange of 5KB messages?

Video game gets R rating

Ensuring that the game will be the biggest hit of the summer thanks to all the free publicity, the Ontario government has given a video game an R rating for the first time in history – a history that includes Grad Theft Auto III and Vice City, BMX XXX, True Crime: Streets of L.A., and heaps of other violent, gory or misogynist titles.

Australia and New Zealand have already banned the sale of the game – fruitlessly it seems, because copies are turning up – which is about a death row inmate who is kidnapped before he can be executed.

There isn’t anything special about the killing in this game as compared to other games, just the realistic way that it is presented.