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Home » Hacking News » Damage Toll for Nimda, less than was expected.

Damage Toll for Nimda, less than was expected.

by Majik on October 3rd, 2001 The hefty damage toll from Nimda could have been far worse, if many Internet users hadn't been running automatically updating anti-virus software, a research firm said today.


According to Computer Economics, the worldwide economic impact of the Nimda worm reached about $590 million. But Michael Erbschloe, vice president of research, said the downtime and clean-up costs from Nimda would have been significantly greater if many leading anti-virus software packages hadn't automatically downloaded updated virus definitions to users.





"When a new virus hits, the first few hours are critical. Soon after Nimda was first reported, all of the major vendors were pushing updates to their users," said Erbschloe.





Most anti-virus software depends on a database of virus descriptions in order to identify and block potential infections. To ensure that users maintain up-to-date virus definitions, many leading products now can be configured to periodically download updates from vendors, in some cases for a subscription fee.





A second wave of propagation, programmed into the worm to commence ten days after the first, was mostly ineffective, thanks in large part to the rapid installation of such updates, according to Erbschloe.





While anti-virus software detects Nimda-infected e-mail, Web pages, and other files, free tools are also available for cleaning up systems infected with the worm.





Had Nimda contained a data-destroying payload and had no automated protection processes been in place, the cost of the worm could easily have exceeded $6 billion, according to Computer Economics.





Still, Nimda spread to hundreds of thousands of computers within 24 hours of first hitting the Internet Sept. 18, according to data from the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis. The self-propagating code has managed to infect nearly 1.8 million users of online and centrally managed anti-virus tools from Trend Micro, according to the firm's virus tracking center.





Such numbers indicate that while automatic updates are a powerful weapon against fast-spreading viruses, technology alone can't stop the spread, according to Shane Coursen, CEO of WildList Organization International, a consortium of anti-virus researchers.





"Nimda went global almost overnight. This means that most everybody that was going to be hit was hit before the update, be it automatic or manual, was applied," said Coursen.





Although it can lead to virus hoaxes and tie up bandwidth, according to Coursen, good old word of mouth is one of best non-technical defenses against virulent viruses.





"The sharing of information alerts with those who may not yet be affected by a virus allows people to properly shore up their defenses," he said.





According to Computer Economics, the LoveLetter worm that hit computers around the globe in 2000 racked up clean-up and downtime costs of $8.75 billion.


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