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What is a Warhol Worm?

What is a Warhol Worm?

The Warhol worm refers to a class of computer worm that is capable of rapidly replicating, such that it infects a wide swath of computers on the Internet in as little as 15 minutes. Some researchers assert that a true Warhol worm could infect all computers on the Internet within the 15-minute timeframe — hence the title ""Warhol,"" after artist Andy Warhol, who famously said, ""In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.""

The Sapphire worm, also called Slammer or SQL Slammer, as described in an analysis by the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) was the first worm that approached these limits, raising further interest in how much damage a malicious, rapidly spreading worm might be able to cause. Although the Sapphire worm did not carry a malicious payload, it was still destructive, and its appearance suggests that the Warhol worm is not just a theoretical threat but an actual one.

The Threat From Computer Worms

Computer worms are a significant security concern because they self-replicate, are self-contained, and propagate through a computer's existing data transport mechanisms without any human interaction. A computer worm coupled with a Trojan virus — hybrid malware — is a worm with a Trojan payload that is capable of using multiple means of transport to make multiple types of attacks and hide itself for future attacks.

The ability to create hybrid malware of this type is what makes a true Warhol worm such a concern. A worm carrying a malicious payload, delivered across all hosts on the Internet within 15 minutes, means that the destruction caused by the payload would happen before human response could stop the damage.

To keep your computer safe from malware, keep your computer's operating system up-to-date, use a modern browser, and keep all software programs current and patched with latest security patches. Evaluate antivirus products and complete Internet security products, and select from those that provide real-time, comprehensive protection from all threats.

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