Because they can replicate and function without human assistance, computer worms are the worst of the three common forms of malware (viruses, worms, and Trojans). Both viruses and worms self-replicate, but viruses need a host program to spread while worms can proliferate independently.
Viruses and worms cause similar types of harm; they both delete files and corrupt programs. Because worms affect networks rather than just individual computers, they can wreak more widespread havoc in a shorter time. The Internet is basically a worldwide set of cooperating computer networks so a fast-moving worm can cripple the Internet in hours.
Viruses infect individual computers, but worms usually attack the computer servers and routers that control networks. Servers are essentially computers with more storage and other resources that they make available to multiple users. Routers are just servers with specialized operating systems that How Many Ounces In Half Gallon dedicate their resources to routing data on the networks.
Once a network becomes infected, the self-replicating worm can stop the network in its tracks. The worm overwhelms the network, consuming massive amounts of memory and processor time. Because the network is so busy running the worm, it has no resources to run any of its regular processes and programs.
In addition to eating up network resources, many worms also carry a payload of other malware. They often add backdoor installation programs or spyware onto the network. These malware applications allow hackers to monitor computers on the network, send spam to users, and even steal data from individual users.
Though the abuse of network resources is the biggest headache for network administrators, the worm’s payload is the biggest threat to individual users. Some worms are capable of circumventing security programs installed on individual PCs, or even of opening computer ports to malicious attacks.
One of the fastest-spreading worms ever is “MyDoom”, which was first released in January 2004 and distributed by email. Experts believe the hackers wrote the worm to flood attack a specific software company, Santa Cruz Operations (SCO). After flooding SCO’s website with Internet traffic, the worm self-replicated and spread to the Internet, causing a worldwide slowdown in Internet.
What Can You Do?
Because worms can create such chaos, every user must take precautions against infection. A properly configured firewall can provide some protection for your computer. Set up your firewall to restrict network traffic and to cloak your computer. The benefit of cloaking is obvious; if your computer is invisible on the network, it can not be infected by any worms on the network.
Email attachments remain the primary way most hackers spread malware. Be suspicious of email from unknown users, or unexpected email from known users. Do not open attachments without having them scanned by your anti-virus software.
Scan your computer regularly using your anti-virus software. If your computer starts running sluggishly and rebooting spontaneously, or your Internet access slows to a crawl, you may be infected with a worm. Anti-virus software can clean your computer of most infections. For newer worms that your software does not catch, you can search the Internet for manual removal instructions.