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What Are Worms?
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Many different kinds of destructive programs wreak havoc on computers and on the Internet. In recent years, though, the ones that spread mores widely and quickly are called worms.

In general, worms are programs that are designed to spread by themselves from computer to computer, and that attack not just individual computers, but the workings of the Internet itself. So a worm could, for example, attack Internet servers, or be designed to flood the Internet with so much traffic that it makes the Internet more difficult to use.

The line between a virus and a worm is razor thin. In fact, the terms can be used somewhat interchangeably for some pieces of destructive software. Worms primary purpose is to (in one way or another) cause widespread disruption to the Net itself. Viruses, on the other hand, are designed to hurt individual computers.

The classic definition of a worm is a program that spreads all by itself – it doesn’t require any human intervention to do so. Viruses are spread by people sending an infected file to someone else. But that definition really only fits in the early days of the Internet. Today many worms use Outlook as a way to spread themselves.

It starts out when you receive an email message with an attachment from someone you know, so you’re not suspicious. The email’s subject might be something like “Check this out” or “Thought you’d want to see this”. You open the attachment and nothing seems to happen, so you quickly forget about it. Without you knowing it, when you opened the attachment, the worm was set loose. It looks through your email address book, and without your knowledge sends a message to everyone in your address book, with itself attached.

Soon, hundreds of thousands of messages are sent this way, and the email servers on the Internet can’t keep up with all the traffic and they crash. The Internet gets so clogged with traffic it slows down. The worm has succeeded.

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