LIKE prison wardens marveling at an escapee’s spoon-dug tunnel, computer-security professionals acknowledge grudging admiration for the author of SoBig.F, the virus that deluged e-mail In boxes last month. At the epidemic’s peak in mid-August, according to the antivirus company Central Command, SoBig.F-related messages accounted for 73 percent of e-mail traffic worldwide, making it history’s most aggressive online contagion. “You have to think the person who did this has some awareness of the Internet’s infrastructure,” said Mark Carey, an independent computer security consultant in Columbus, Ohio, who has analyzed SoBig’s code. “It’s a little more sophisticated than what we’ve previously seen.” On Wednesday, SoBig’s self-destruct mechanism is supposed to kick in, spelling an end to the pesky e-mail messages it generated with subject lines like “Wicked Screensaver.” But as SoBig in colloquial parlance, a self-contained type of virus called a worm – has faded, concern has grown that computer networks, and the power grids and nuclear plants they control, are no better equipped to ward off infections than they were three and a half years ago, when the infamous I Love You worm ravaged cyberspace. IDC, a research firm, estimates that $2.2 billion was spent on antivirus products last year, but scofflaws always seem to be a step ahead. Antivirus vendors can do little but shrug and point out that even their fanciest software isn’t perfect. Full Story
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