[ISN] Virus writers have girlfriends - official

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Mon Apr 18 06:02:44 EDT 2005


By John Leyden
15th April 2005 

The stereotype of virus writers as spotty nerds who can't pull is well
wide of the mark, according to an expert on the psychology of virus
writers. Sarah Gordon, senior principal research engineer at Symantec
Security Response, said that the more recent idea that virus writing
activity is focused mainly around money-making scams is inaccurate.

Gordon - sometimes described as the Clarice Starling of anti-virus
security - has interviewed over a hundred virus writers in the course
of years of research. She found the type of person who causes the
disruption that accompanies the release of malicious code varied
considerably by age, education, income, interests and social skills.

"Most of the adult males I've interviewed have had girlfriends. Female
virus writers have had boyfriends. The stereotypes are wrong," Gordon
told El Reg.

Gordon drew a distinction between viruses created out of technical
curiosity - which still account for the majority of "in-the-wild"  
viruses - and malicious code created by criminal elements in the
hacking community as a way of stealing personal information on
computer resources. Agobot, Bagle and the like get all the publicity
but the vast majority of viruses are written by people as a technical
challenge. These nuisance virus writers have no conception of the
damage and inconvenience their creations can cause. "Virus writing is
irresponsible but not difficult," she said.

For years, Gordon has attended conferences and conventions attended by
virus writers and corresponded with them online as a way of better
understanding the motives behind virus creation and how it might be
possible to make VXers stop their anti-social activities. She is over
in Europe to complete final work on a thesis for her PhD in computer

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