Virus writers are male social outcasts who don't have girlfriends, according to Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at anti-virus company Sophos.
"Virus writers use false names to hide their identity such as Dark Avenger and Colostomy Bagboy. These are the kind of people who live a fantasy life and use false names to project something that is supposedly dark and mysterious."
But that can all change once a love interest enters the scene. "Once they get a girlfriend, buy a washing machine and go to university, they start to grow up a bit," said Cluley.
The virus writing scene is male dominated, but there have been some female groupies who accompany the writers. "One groupie, 'Typhoid Mary' was renowned for her presence at Comdex, a major IT show. Travelling with a group of virus writers, she would lurk by computers, and re-boot them with freshly written viruses while they were unattended."
But apparently crime doesn't pay. The author of the virus SMEG, The Black Baron, otherwise known as Christopher Pile, was one of the few virus writers to be jailed for his crime. Pile, 26, confessed to writing the viruses to increase his self esteem. He pleaded guilty in 1995 and was sentenced to 18 months under sections 2 and 3 of the Computer Misuse Act.
But even though he did it to put British virus writing on the map, he failed dismally at reaching hero status, as even his lawyer described him as a "sad recluse".
This was first published in February 2000