Storm Worm Squashed?

Dennis Faas's picture

Just when it seemed like those behind the Storm Worm were about to make a big profit off its ability to soak up personal details, a University of California researcher is reporting the virus' imminent demise.

According to Brandon Enright, network security analyst at the U of C's San Diego campus, the Storm Worm has actually been shrinking in size and impact since sometime during this past summer. He says that despite the immense publicity surrounding the virus, it may soon cease to present a legitimate threat to computer and Internet users.

Enright made the surprising argument at the Toorcon hacker conference in San Diego this past Saturday.

What is the Storm Worm?

Despite its nasty name, the Storm Worm isn't actually a worm. Instead, it's a network creation that uses malicious email messages to infect unsuspecting users. The emails are actually controlled by a central peer-to-peer protocol, and for some time that rather radical strategy paid off big for the hackers involved. Experts estimate that the Storm Worm has reached about 50 million different systems, although Enright argues the actual number of infected is much, much lower. He believes just 1.5 million PCs have been hit, and only about 1/8th of those have ever been accessible. (Source:

Since antivirus vendors began a concentrated effort to reduce the Storm Worm's growth, its potency has been greatly limited. In September, Microsoft updated its Malicious Software tool to easily detect Storm, immediately axing the number of infections by one-fifth.

The allure of Storm has been its presentation. Enright acknowledges the scam has had a phenomenal run, primarily because the creators know what will make a naive user click.

Contrary to other beliefs, Enright also believes the point of the Storm Worm is no longer identity theft. "Believe it or not, credit card numbers aren't worth that much money...It's much better to make money...via pump and dump," a method that temporarily boosts the price of penny stocks. It doesn't mean much to the average web user, and it really shouldn't. (Source:

Regardless of the Storm Worm's health, it's still important that users be very critical of emails sent by unknown contacts. We all realize that even if the Storm Worm is dead, it's only a matter of time before something else strikes with just as much thunder.

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