The dark world of the juvenile virus-writer

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 May, 2004, 12:00am

The path of least resistance makes all rivers, and some men, crooked, they say. Let us not forget that it can turn the young the wrong way too.

Just look at 'script kiddies': novice geeks recently catapulted from obscurity to curiosity status by the Sasser worm saga.

Sven Jaschan, the 18-year-old responsible for the worm which has caused damage estimated at up to US$500 million, is now on the rack. But Sasser already has several bastard descendants. Antivirus analysts suspect that a recent strain, Sasser F, was written by a script kiddie.

How can they tell? Because the 'variant' is pretty much the same as the original - a giveaway since script kiddies basically just copy some of the thousands of viruses that infest the internet.

If, as in this case, the script kiddies have intellectual pretensions, they also tweak the viruses before encouraging their further spread.

Because they lack know-how and are driven by a primitive lust for destruction, script kiddies stand only a couple of rungs above child pornographers and spammers in the digital hierarchy. Script kiddies are the vermin of the internet, without the cute furry bodies.

Do not even dream of referring to a fully qualified hacker as a script kiddie. That would be like calling a venture capitalist a loan shark and guarantees an instant death sentence for your computer.

Eager to understand the character of these outcast mimics, I visited a script kiddie stomping ground - an old-fashioned IRC chat room called hackphreak teeming with aggressive teenage boys too unkewl even to net a 'scene whore'.

Through the application of charm and a micropayment, I secured an interview with a leading figure in the script-kiddie underground: Trollwurst, a student who lives in Bavaria with his ADSL connection, his grandmother and his inner demon.

My earnest inquiries as to his motives prompted the succinct reply: 'Go @@@@ yourself, mutant.'

Some analysts take an equally uncompromising attitude towards script kiddies. One Slashdot contributor, MajorDick, reports that he discovered a script kiddie desperately trying to hack several of his company servers. MajorDick recognised the attacker's IP block and summoned the system administrator for the internet service provider in question - a friend who supplied the culprit's name and address.

MajorDick, who claims to stand more than six feet tall and to weigh well over 100kg, enlisted his massive father and a baseball bat just in case. Together, they knocked on the door of 'a very nice house' and were greeted by 'a pimple-faced rugrat'. The enforcers revealed they had come about the hacking attempt on the server and then 'had a nice little discussion', the gist of which was that the next time the little reptile tried something similar, they would call the FBI for attempted bank robbery.

While hardliners treat script kiddies as felons, others in the computing community take a liberal stance, blaming society for their rise. The argument goes that the games which script kiddies play are not just their hobby but their social life. They are so nervous and awkward that, if they went to parties, they would be shunned at best, forced to eat their own body parts at worst. So what should they do in the evenings? Some towns shut down at nine. After that, there is little to do except roam, go bowling or break some kind of law. Better that they clone viruses than vandalise cars, it is said.

Anyway, the derivative strains which script kiddies unleash rarely wreak much digital damage. If you have patched against Sasser, the F version should trouble you no more than a pop-up.

That said, the average script kiddie aspires to break and make code with the ?lan of Kevin Mitnick. Many will grow up to become members of the dreaded elite known as 'blackhat hackers'. So maybe MajorDick should have finished the job with that baseball bat after all.


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