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An Internet worm is type of malicious software (malware) that self-replicates and distributes copies of itself to its network. These independent virtual viruses spread through the Internet, break into computers, and replicate without intervention from and unbeknownst to computer users.
Internet worms can be included in any type of virus, script or program. These worms typically infect systems by exploiting bugs or vulnerabilities that can often be found in legitimate software. Unlike Trojans or other viruses that require user intervention to spread, Internet worms can spread on their own. This makes them extremely dangerous.
Internet worms are also known as computer worms.
Internet worms use various techniques to multiply over the Internet. Initial worms just scanned local network hard drives and folders, and then inserted themselves into programs.
In the 1990s, Internet worms came in the form of Visual Basic scripts that replicated on computers running on Windows. These worms used the user's email to spread themselves to all the addresses available in the user's address book.
In 2001, Internet worms began to exploit vulnerabilities in the Windows OS to infect machines directly via the Internet. Later, Microsoft released automatic OS updates to prevent this problem. Probably the most powerful Internet worm in terms of its scope was the Code Red Worm, which scanned the Internet and attacked susceptible computers that ran the Windows IIS Web server.
Internet worms are embedded in software and penetrate most firewalls and other forms of network security. Anti-virus software applications combat worms along with other forms of malware such as viruses.