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Computer viruses have become a way of life. Apart from a few smug Apple users who revel in telling you that hackers don’t pay too much attention to the Macintosh market, just about all of us have suffered at the hand of a virus at one time or another. By SEAN BACHER.

Computer viruses, for all their evil, are ingenious little programmes written with only two goals in mind – do harm and replicate. They do this in many ways. Some open up back doors to our PCs, allowing hackers to gain access to our confidential information through computer networks and even the Internet. Others simply delete chunks of data from our hard drives and some are just plain annoying by preventing programs doing what they are supposed to.

Irrespective of the harm they do, they also replicate in ingenious ways. Some are cheeky enough to send infected e-mail to all the people in your e-mail program’s address book. Others hide inside files and launch themselves onto new computers when unsuspecting users open these files sent to them by colleagues and friends.

Ironically, the programmers of these clever but malicious programmes expect no recompense for their work other than recognition when they hit it big ‚ i.e. when thousands of computers are infected and the victims scramble to find an antidote. These people thrive on the publicity their destruction secures.

Protecting computers from viruses is big business. In fact, there are hundreds of virus protection programmes available on the market and it is now a race amongst anti-virus companies to see who can come up with an antidote for the latest virus the quickest.

Kaspesky Labs, one of the leading companies in the fight against viruses, recently released some virus statistics, revealing that the Lentin Worm did the most damage in the latter half of 2002, being responsible for 27.66% of infections. This was closely followed by the Klez worm, responsible for some 23,39% of the infections.

Below are the top twenty viruses on this list. Have you had the privilege to be a victim of one of these?

1.tI-Worm.Lentin 27,66% 2.tI-Worm.Klez.h 23,39% 3.tI-Worm.Tanatos 3,17% 4.tMacro.Word97.Thus 2,47% 5.tI-Worm.Bridex 1,36% 6.tWorm.Win32.Opasoft 1,34% 7.tMacro.Word97.Marker 1,29% 8.tI-Worm.Hybris 1,28% 9.tMacro.Word.Cap 0,96% 10.tWin32.Elkern 0,83% 11.tMacro.Word97.VMPC 0,81% 12.tMacro.Word97.Flop 0,77% 13.tWin32.FunLove 0,64% 14.tI-Worm.Magistr 0,62% 15.tMacro.Word97.Saver 0,61% 16.tWin95.Spaces 0,56% 17.tMacro.Word97.TheSecond 0,54% 18.tI-Worm.KakWorm 0,48% 19.tI-Worm.Winevar 0,46% 20.tMacro.Word97.Claud 0,45%

The numbers behind the virus name represent the percentage of infections caused by certain malicious programs in the overall number of virus incidents reported to Kaspersky Labs during November 2002.

If you would like to read further on about any of the above viruses, visit Kaspersky Labs at the following address: http://www.kaspersky.com

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