This week Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, suggests that, far from being computer masterminds, most virus writers simply download a kit from the internet.
If you believe what you read in some of the tabloid newspapers, you would think that virus writers were evil geniuses, understanding complex technical gobbledygook, and capable of taking over the world.
How else would they be able to dupe sometimes millions of people into running their malicious code?
The truth of the matter is that technical know-how often has only a little part to play when writing and distributing a virus.
Look at Jan de Wit, creator of the Anna Kournikova worm which infected computer users across the world.
Far from being a whizzkid, de Wit merely downloaded a virus writing kit from the internet. Sure, by disguising his code as 'nude' pictures of the tennis star, he showed signs of creativity. But intelligence? That's debatable.
Some virus writers sometimes show such obvious signs of stupidity that you may think they actually want to be caught by the police.
Welsh virus author Simon Vallor bragged about his creations online, and went so far as to include messages to his pals inside his worms. His own dumbness made it hard for him to extricate himself when the police collared him.
Michael Buen took stupidity one step further and included his entire CV, complete with contact details, in his virus and even expected to be employed based on his virus writing skills.
Most recently, Jeffrey Lee Parson was arrested in the US in connection with a variant of the Blaster worm.
The worm he is alleged to have written communicated with a virus-writing website, owned by Parson, leading police straight to his doorstep. It even dropped a file called by his nickname, T33kid.
Geniuses? It seems not. Leaving such obvious clues within a virus is like committing a crime just outside the police station.
Virus writers don't seem to have grasped this; instead they look upon their activity as comparable to graffiti.
Oblivious to the consequences, they seek recognition from their peers for what they see as a piece of art, their pride and joy. Attaching their 'tag' into the virus provides them with notoriety.
So, if virus writers leave such obvious clues in their code, why, out of 80,000+ viruses in the wild today, have there only been a handful of convictions?
It's relatively simple for the antivirus vendors to share information about the messages contained inside a virus with computer crime authorities such as the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit.
However, this is only one part of the case against a virus writer. For a prosecution to be successful there must be evidence of the damage caused. This means that infected businesses have to report that they fell victim to the infection.
If a virus hits a company, the first reaction is usually to fix the problem. Once the mopping up is complete, reporting the offence is often the last thing on corporate minds.
Businesses typically do not want to be tarred with the brush of a virus infection, which could be perceived as evidence of lax security.
Computer crime authorities must work harder in creating a framework that makes companies feel comfortable about reporting internet crime.
It's not all bad news. As virus writers grow up, they mature and typically grow out of virus writing. It seems unlikely that Simon Vallor, who received a two-year jail sentence, will risk writing viruses again.
As the computer crime investigators become more sophisticated, an increasing number of virus writers are discovering that they are not as invincible or as hard to trace on the internet as they once believed.
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