Skip to Main Content
The defining task of propagating malicious code is to locate new targets to attack. Viruses search for files in a computer system to which to attach, whereas worms search for new targets to which to transmit themselves. Depending on their method of transmission, malicious code writers have developed different strategies for finding new victims. Worms transmitted via email have had great success propagating themselves because they find their next targets either by raiding a user's email address book or by searching through the user's mailbox. Such addresses are almost certain to be valid, permitting the worm to hijack the user's social web and exploit trust relationships. In most cases, the worm will craft its own message to send to the target, but some will wait for the user to send a message and attach themselves to it. Network worms, those that attack network services, must determine their next victim's IP address.