According to this Wikipedia article about the Sobig Worm, the worm

deactivated itself on September 10, 2003

Why would a worm (or any malware for that matter) deactivate itself? Why not stay on a host computer to try to continue to do more damage?

  • why make it in the first place?
    – dandavis
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 21:21
  • If you read the forensic report linked on that wiki page, it explains why this particular worm self-destructed
    – schroeder
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 21:24
  • @dandavis I offer you the same response as above ...
    – schroeder
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 21:25
  • 1
    I think the question is meant to be more general. Lots of malware deactivates itself and sometimes even keys needed to decrypt files are released without apparent reason.
    – Thomas
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 7:52

1 Answer 1


We are developing customized malware for our customers to simulate APT (advanced persistent threats) within professional penetration tests. Disabling malware in our case has an important purpose: To prevent activities (e.g. infections) after the end of a project.

In case of malware in-the-wild the goal might be to prevent further access to other resources like web server. For example if the developer knows that the C&C servers won't be around at that future time anyway.

Highly professional malware with stealth capabilities might deactivate itself to prevent detection or to make a reverse engineering much harder. The attackers might want to get access and then steal a specific set of data or switch to another communication capability. The malware for the initial break-in shall stay unknown because the technique might be very valuable or the approach might reveal something about the source or targets.

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