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Computer viruses turn 20, but spam takes the lead

NPR has been talking a lot about viruses lately. Why? Because it has now been 20 years since the first major virus, Brain, showed up on the scene and marked the beginning of a long history of malicious viruses. Sure, Rich Skrenta wrote Elk Cloner to share pirated computer games with friends as early as 1982, but his program wasn’t malicious enough to make a big splash.

Still, the heyday of computer viruses was five or six years ago. Computer prodigies are focusing on other, equally harmful ventures these days. Weekend Edition’s Scott Simon interviewed senior editor of Wired magazine Nicholas Thompson, who had some interesting things to say. He theorizes there are so many ways to spend time on the Internet these days, from using Bit Torrent to downloading movies to blogging, that the people who were once attracted to writing viruses are now otherwise occupied.

So what do we have to watch out for? According to Thompson, cell phone viruses are gaining momentum now that we’re doing so much more than talking on our mobile phones. He also explained that the types of people who wrote viruses back then are now working to write programs that give spam companies access to computers instead. Mike Rothman has some valuable insight on spamming on his Security Insight blog, and expert Russ Vines has just come out with a resource list for the Wall Street Journal – keep it in mind if you’re tasked with protecting customers from security threats.

What do you think the next big threat will be? Post a comment and let us know.

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