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November 2003

Fear factor: Malicious code and why the worst is yet to come

In an exclusive agreement with book publisher Prentice Hall, portions of this article were adapted from Ed Skoudis's new book, Malware: Fighting Malicious Code (Prentice Hall, 2003, ISBN 0131014056), co-authored by Lenny Zeltser. Nachi. Blaster. Sobig.F. These were some of the nastiest worms we've faced to date, but, in some ways, they were just warning shots. The attacks put the spotlight on the rising threat of "combo malware," hybrid menaces that combine several species of malicious code in one nasty package, making them tougher to fight than single-purpose breeds. Ever since Code Red and Nimda in 2001, we've been hearing the same thing: Combo malware marks a new, potentially disastrous era in malicious code propagation. That's true, but so far we've been lucky. A major worm with a viral payload could bring large portions of the computing grid to a standstill. Millions of hard drives could be overwritten multiple times, making data reconstruction almost impossible. Denial of service could become the rule rather than the ...

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