If you always thought hackers were nerds who didn't have girlfriends, think again Once I clicked on a virus that lurked in my inbox - nothing happened. With luck, I will never experience the data-mangling wrath of a virus because I use an operating system that hackers largely ignore. I could be smug, but I know how traumatic it feels even to lose a sliver of data - a document edit, say. As a result, I despise virus writers. I have always understood that the writers responsible for Mytob, Netsky and other pests are sad acts obsessed by computer games and sex rather than the twisted tech wizards portrayed by Hollywood. Correspondingly, I assumed that the average virus writer had no more chance of snaring a girlfriend than a coveted position at Nasa. Females must shun the losers, I thought, and so did many others. How wrong we were. They are chick magnets, according to an expert on the psychology of virus writers. Enter Sarah Gordon, the senior principal research engineer at Symantec Security Response, who is also known as 'the Clarice Starling of anti-virus security'. Ms Gordon has interviewed more than 100 virus writers and made a discovery that shatters the stereotype. 'Most of the adult males I've interviewed have had girlfriends,' TheRegister.co.uk quotes her as saying. What can the attraction be? Presumably, the girlfriends feel excited by the power their boyfriends exert when they unleash worms into the wild that are promptly blocked and deleted. Or maybe the girlfriends have fallen for the celluloid evil genius image; I admit that I find the idea of knowing how to make a virus to be a touch impressive. Nonetheless, I suspect that many virus writers who make out they have the guile of Bobby Fischer amount to 'script kiddies'. They just cut and paste, incapable of crunching code at all, but are still able to damage the livelihoods of some innocents who fail to see through the come-ons they use in their subject lines. Therefore, girls, please ditch the deviants. Consider going out instead with, well anyone, even a security cop who vets where staff surf and intercepts e-mails in search of rude words and gossip. Virus writers have nothing to offer. Sure, if they refine their devilry they can turn a profit. The Italian responsible for the Voltan worm apparently made Euro100,000 ($1.07 million) in three days thanks to its nasty ability to reroute internet connections to offshore 'premium phone numbers'. But he received his comeuppance. Last month, a Milan court sentenced him to 14 months and fined him Euro3,000 - evidence for the theory that the authorities are catching and convicting more virus writers than ever before and cracking down hard. The hell-raiser was based in Venezuela, so it may be that nobody in the same line of crime is safe wherever they lurk. If you are a female who nonetheless feels compelled to date a writer, why not a novelist or a journalist? Granted, you may wind up living with the lights switched off and eating cat food since neither breed is guaranteed to provide. All the same, at least you are unlikely to reach the stage where you can only speak to your darling via a reinforced glass panel equipped with a microphone. No evil genius can be worth that.