Little is known about the people who write programmed threats, largely because few of the authors have been identified. Based on those authors who are known to authorities, they can probably be grouped into a few major categories:


The first Internet worm was written by a graduate student, apparently to demonstrate a class of security problems. The ILOVEYOU computer worm was written by computer science undergraduate students as a class project, again as a demonstration. Following both incidents, the individuals admitted that they had exercised poor judgment and had not anticipated how far these programs would spread. Poor judgment or not, courts have ruled that writing and releasing such programs is criminal behavior.

Publicity hounds

Another motivation for writing a virus or worm might be to profit, gain fame, or simply derive some ego gratification from the pursuit. For example, the Melissa computer worm was written by a computer programmer who wanted to impress an exotic dancer of the same name. The Back Orifice Trojan horse was written by the Cult of the Dead Cow as an apparent publicity stunt.

In the future, someone might write a virus and release it, and then try to gain publicity as its discoverer, be the first to market software that deactivates it, or simply brag about it on a bulletin board. This notion is similar to a firefighter setting fire to a building so that he can take the credit for putting the fire out.

Experimenters and hobbyists

Some of the most ...

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