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Should We Be Concerned With Government-Sponsored Viruses?

There is hardly an Internet user in the world whose computer has not been infected by some type of virus, spyware or other malicious program. Recently it has come to the world’s attention that nation-states are developing viruses and unleashing them into the networks of foreign countries that are often considered our enemies. The big question is whether or not these viruses could backfire on the states producing them, and whether normal citizens should be worried.

The Viruses

In 2010 a virus known as “Stuxnet” began infecting computers linked to Iranian nuclear facilities. The virus ended up destroying centrifuges at these facilities. Just recently it was discovered that the Stuxnet virus was a joint creation of the United States and Israel with the express purpose to hinder Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Just recently another computer virus known as “Flame” has begun attacking computers.Once again the majority of computers affected were located in Iran. Though no one has claimed responsibility for Flame several experts have concluded that the virus is too complex for normal hackers, and it must have been created by a nation.

Should We Be Worried?

The Stuxnet, and most likely the Flame, virus was made to disrupt what is considered a rogue country’s nuclear ambitions, but this doesn’t mean they are the only ones affected by the virus. Both of these viruses attack indiscriminately. Though it was intended to affect Iran, Stuxnet has been found in Indonesia; India; Azerbaijan; the U.S. and Pakistan. Only 9% of affected users are outside of these countries. Flame has also been found outside of Iran, popping up in Israel, Sudan, Syria, and the West Bank.

Every computer user should worry about government sponsored viruses. Once they are unleashed there is really no controlling them. United States officials were probably hoping Stuxnet would never make it to U.S. computers, but it did. These viruses spread through programs that millions of computer users make use of, and with the Internet it is possible to transport a virus from any country to any other country. Computer users should always be prepared for this possibility.

Prevention

Preventing these viruses from infecting a computer is much like preventing any other virus. Updated computer protection software should always be used. Though new viruses may make it through the virus checks, these software companies usually learn about the viruses quickly and subsequently update their product. Siemens has even released a removal tool for Stuxnet, since mostly Siemens customers were affected by the virus. It is also important to use common sense when on a computer. It is important not to download strange files from unknown parties; if a browser gives a warning that a file or website might not be safe, it is a good idea to listen.

Spying and Evolution?

The Flame virus has the capability to record nearby conversations, screenshots and chat logs. It can also steal files and change settings remotely. Even though a government would most likely claim to never use this virus on their own people, they do have the capability—which means having the government spy on private citizens via computer is always a possibility. Another scary possibility is that the virus could evolve, and could do so in the wrong hands. Once a virus is released, anyone with computer code knowledge can alter the virus. This means that if they’re smart enough, they can intensify the virus or even make it immune to security patches that have been created.

Government sponsored viruses are double edged swords; they can help sustain national security, but they can also attack computers in the nation that first created them. It is important to always protect a computer in every way possible while online to prevent infection by these “super viruses”. Though most countries will claim they would not use any of these viruses against their own people, we cannot really be sure of that. For now it seems that government sponsored super viruses are something we will have to live with.

Author Bio:- Jennifer Hamilton is a freelance blogger on behalf of Insurance Swami that offers free life insurance quotes online.

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