Various software developers are looking for ways to better distribute useful pieces of information to their users. This information would mainly consist of software updates and patches for known vulnerabilities. Instead of being downloaded from a central server, these updates would be distributed similar to malicious codes and function just like a computer worm.
Computer worms spread themselves by self-replication. Unlike a virus, a worm does not require action on part of the victim to be executed. After one computer is infected, they probe a network in search of a new host, which is basically their primary function. Worms tend to more harmless than viruses, although some have inflicted a considerable amount of damage.
Why Benevolent Worms are Enticing
The widespread use of benevolent worms is a tempting idea for many reasons. One can view it as a way of fighting off the malicious coders with their own weapons. It could also possibly solve all of those vulnerabilities made visible by the internet, automatically securing the end-user's system. This could prove to be very useful as today's patching-system isn't effective as it should be. The fact is that several people, especially home users, simply do not make use of them. In all honesty, efficient all-around patching involves a lot of time and labor, something many of us wouldn't find much enjoyment in.
How Benevolent Worms Can Enhance Your Security...or Not
A good worm could be something that turns a security problem into a challenging experience. It would certainly make an interesting project for developers looking to get all the kinks out of the code and properly distribute it. Users would no longer have to worry about the technical details involved with installing updates and patches. However, these same benefits are just what could make the benevolent worm a bad move.
Although it would probably help considerably, patching a user's machine without consent isn't a good practice. The worm has been dealt a bad rep for much more than its payload. The propagation techniques of a viral strain aren't necessarily harmful, yet distributing a beneficial payload may not be the best route. When considering how it functions, it's hard to image the worm as tool that could be used without stirring up some controversy.
In order to be truly beneficial, a benevolent worm would have meet the following criteria:
-The end-user can choose to have it installed
-Installation is specifically adapted to the machine its running on
-The installation can be cancelled
-Tt's easy to locate on the system
-The program can be easily removed
The main task would be altering the worm's behavior, as they are designed to run without user intervention or consent. After settling in, it begins to propagate and spread until being fully eradicated. These characteristics are not very compatible and do not leave much room for error. If a worm were able to give users more of an option with installation flexibility and easy uninstallation functions, propagating would be much harder, essentially making it uneffective.
While there are several hopeful in one day using the worm for good, many more critics stand firm in their disapproval and view it as a bad way to distribute software.