Virus writers are sados obsessed with sex and computer games, not the evil geniuses Hollywood and fear-mongering Washington politicians portray them as.
That's the view of Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, who said "virus writers are much more likely to be teenage males than crack cyberterrorists bent on the annihilation of the internet."
Cluley poured cold water on the notion that viruses might bring down critical systems, pointing out that most are spread by email and are relatively easy to defend against. Viruses are a nuisance but those who elevate their threat are actually doing a disservice to security by misstating their importance, he added.
In anti-virus circles, Cluley is well known for describing virus writers (VXers) in less than flattering terms, once memorably saying they only wrote malicious code because they were spotty teenage nerds who couldn't pull.
Now gaming, as well as salacious sexual themes (for example, the Anna Kournikova worm) are becoming mainstays among virus writers. These themes show the preoccupations of both virus writers and those they are targeting with their malicious code, Cluley reckons.
For example, the DuLoad worm disguises itself by randomly using a pool of 39 filenames. These filenames - which reflect a preoccupation with sex, celebrity, computer games and hacking - include 'J. Lo Bikini Screensaver.exe', 'Kama Sutra Tetris.exe', 'Free Mpegs.exe' and 'The Sims Game crack.exe', as well as some pornographic references.
Cluley's previous sociological analysis of virus writing has been less than favourably received among VXers themselves.
Most notably he clashed with female virus writer Gigabyte (creator of the first virus that used Microsoft's C# language), who lambasted Cluley as sexist for his comments on Usenet newsgroups.
Far from being sexist, Cluley told us, his remarks only reflected the idea the girls were generally "too sensible" to write viruses (patronising bastard - Ed). ®