Nasty new viruses that use devious tricks to infect computers will become even more common in the future. The anti-virus software company Sophos says that the Nimda worm was the most widespread virus this year, even though it first appeared late in the year, in September.

?Nimda was effective because it could infect computers with a variety of techniques,? says Graham Cluley, Sophos senior technology consultant. ?It is likely that we will see more multiple-pronged attacks in the future.?

Sophos warns that personal computer users are increasingly likely to be the victims of hacker attacks, due to the growth of ?always-on? high-speed internet connections, such as Roadrunner and DSL.

The Nimda worm took advantage of the weaknesses in Microsoft Windows to infect computers and spread across the internet. It combined many of the techniques used by other viruses, including raiding e-mail address books to attack both individual computers and web servers.

The second most common virus was Sircam, a worm which got inside address books, looking for new places to send itself. But one of the most dreaded viruses of the year, Code Red, did not make it into the Sophos top 10. The virus, which came out in July, failed to do as much damage as expected.

Sophos has detected 11,160 new viruses and worms so far this year, known by names such as Anna Kournikova and Homepage. It expects more viruses in 2002, especially so-called e-mail-aware worms. These types of viruses contain their own mail program so they can spread with no external help. The company also warns that viruses are emerging that attack instant messaging programs.

Cluley says the typical virus writer is male, aged 14 to 24. ?There?re 70,000 viruses in existence, we?ve got enough, we don?t need any more,? he says.

Top 10 Viruses (How many has your computer caught?): Nimda Sircam Magistr Hybris Apology VBSWG-X Kakworm SST-A BadTrans Navidad

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