IT goes on Y2K security alert

IT goes on Y2K security alert

Some people just cannot resist throwing fuel on the fire.

Virus writers and hackers are already planning to take advantage of the chaos expected to ensue at the start of the millennium, and experts warn of the potential for hundreds of thousands of viruses to appear before the end of the year.

As IT departments begin to take steps to protect their systems from year 2000-related problems, some virus writers and hackers are hoping that viruses will escape the notice of IT managers.

Anticipating the potential barrage of new viruses, leading antivirus vendors are racing to provide extra protection in the form of updated virus-recognition files.

"We've actually already seen postings on some of the Usenet [chat] groups [for virus writers and hackers] where they are discussing how to use Y2K to 'hose' systems," said Sal Viveros, group marketing manager for total virus defense at Network Associates (NAI).

To protect against year-2000-specific viruses, NAI will announce a Y2K ViruLogic update to its antivirus applications at NetWorld+Interop in Atlanta later this month. The updated .dat file will look for specific types of information, including payloads that will have specific date and content references associated with the first day of the new year.

Time-dated viruses set to take effect before New Year's Day, such as the Thursday Virus set to activate on December 13 have already been discovered, and vendors are expecting to see thousands more.

"It's possible that we could see 200,000 viruses around Y2K," said Carey Nachenberg, chief researcher at the Symantec Anti-virus Research Center (SARC), in Santa Monica, California. "We will see a large number of viruses that will do something on January 1."

Vendors are also warning users to be on the lookout for viruses that may try to mimic the damage expected to occur as a result of year 2000 problems, and therefore be missed by IT managers.

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