Ever wonder who creates those annoying computer worms and viruses that have spread like plague in recent years? And even of more curiosity, what is their motivation? An in-depth article(1) in this week's New York Times Magazine by Clive Thompson provides some answers.
Thompson writes there is an underground network of young writers of "malware" (malicious code) who are based mainly in Europe. Many of them merely create and post their scripts on websites, rather than directly release them onto the Internet. However, their programs are in turn picked up by "script kiddies," (a derisive term for hackers who don't have the skill to create the viruses themselves) who unleash them on the Net.
"For a virus author, a successful worm brings the sort of fame that a particularly daring piece of graffiti used to produce: the author's name, automatically replicating itself in cyberspace," writes Thompson. And when antivirus companies post new warnings of a fresh menace, "the thrill for the author is like getting a great book review," he adds. Interestingly, some legal scholars believe that malware is protected as "free speech," and that a crime is only committed when the virus is activated.