Project Computer Viruses- Why do people write viruses?

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Computer viruses can be incredibly complex programs which take large amounts of time and effort to create, and once they have been released their creators do not gain anything in return, and in the worst case (for them, that is), they could go to prison for writing them. So why do people do it? When asked, virus writers and virus experts give several explanations for why people create viruses:

To show off

Some virus writers, for there are several types, write viruses simply to get noticed by their peers. In hacker communities there are hoards of young "hacker-wannabes" known as script kiddies. These hackers use pre-made scripts and programs to custom-build build viruses, using little or no programming expertise of their own. These script kiddies use their viruses as a form of competition with others of their category. If their virus becomes widespread, like the Code-Red or SirCam virus then they become respected by their peers and therefore feel important. This then encourages others to try to create a more 'successful' virus, and so the story continues. There are also competent virus-writers who create viruses without the aid of pre-made programs who create viruses for the same reason. They often claim to be demonstrating security holes in software or protesting against international companies, but most feel the need to make a lot of noise in hacker communities about their achievements.

To illustrate a security flaw

Some virus-writers believe that by creating viruses they are demonstrating to users the security holes in their software. They suggest that by alerting people to the flaws in their software, computers can become more secure and harder to infiltrate, as software houses release patches to solve the problems. However, many computing professionals are critical of this argument because by writing a virus to demonstrate a security flaw, as by writing the viruses they are doing the very thing they claim they wish to prevent. If a user discovers a security flaw with a piece of software then they are encouraged to alert the software house that produced it rather than writing a virus to exploit it.

To make a political statement

Some virus-writers say that by creating viruses that cause large companies to suffer from computer problems they are making a stand against capitalism or some other political idea. This is also the claimed motivation of many hackers who perpetrate denial of service attacks on company servers. The problem with using computer viruses as a weapon in the war against global capitalism is that ordinary home computer users can be, and often are, infected by the same viruses.

"I'll never get caught"

Virus writers are not often people known as bank-robbers or terrorists, even though they can be involved in the electronic versions of the same crimes. Because of this and because viruses are often created and released from the relative security of the virus-writer's own home, virus-writers often believe that they will not get caught. This means that they will do things which could potentially cause them to serve a long prison term without a second thought. If they were fully aware of how risky it can be to commit cyber-crimes in today’s world of international police co-operation, then many potential virus writers would probably never bother.
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