Sophos ranks the 10 most troubling viruses of 2000

Throughout 2000, hackers have seemed intent on exploiting the emotional side of human nature. Malicious applications tunnelled through the Web with sneaky subject headers hinting of secret admirers, holiday greetings and even love.

But if you have bets on which virus wreaked the most havoc, you may be taken aback by an upcoming report. U.K.-based antivirus software vendor Sophos PLC released a list of the top 10 most insidious viruses of 2000 and expects the list to generate some surprise.

The Love Bug or LoveLetter virus attacked in May with numerous users falling victim to its “I Love You” or “Love Letter” subject headers. People hoping to find emotional bliss were quite surprised when the virus made its way through e-mail address books deleting the files of friends, family and co-workers. The conniving code did billions of U.S. dollars in damages and left a bitter taste in users’ mouths throughout the year.

Sophos, however, said the LoveLetter virus only made the number two spot on its top ten list.

The most devastating virus of the year was Kakworm, according to Sophos. The virus appeared last January and remained one of the top three most prevalent in existence in each month of the year.

“Love Bug was a shooting star – lots of action and noise and fury for a relatively short time,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, in a statement. “Meanwhile, Kakworm has crept stealthily to the top of the charts.”

Kakworm accounted for 17 per cent of all the calls made to Sophos’ help desk throughout the year. The virus attacks users of Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer and Outlook software. While Microsoft created a patch to try and slow the virus down, Sophos said many users still failed to upgrade their antivirus software and so inadvertently helped Kakworm gain the lion’s share of damage throughout the year.

The Navidad virus also made the year’s hot list with a late holiday run. Posing as an electronic Christmas card, the virus attacks a user’s computer only to leave a nasty holiday surprise. Navidad did not start spreading until November but still managed to steal spot number seven on the Sophos top 10 list.

Sophos charges that antivirus vendors tend to hype the prevalence of viruses in order to advance the case for users buying their software to stave off attacks. In many cases, a low-threat virus manages to receive more publicity than it might actually warrant. Sophos said this may be one reason why some lesser known applications appeared to have caused the most difficulties.

– IDG News Service