Just as technology has become more sophisticated over the past several years, so have the viruses that plague users. These viruses show that not all technological advances are welcome ones.
One of the older viruses on our list, the ILOVEYOU virus is also one of the most prolific viruses, infecting an estimated 10% of all computers in the world and creating an estimated $10 billion in damage. The virus posed as an email attachment which, once opened, sent copies of itself to the first 50 addresses in the user’s contacts. Though the creators of the virus were identified as two Filipino computer programmers, they were unable to be charged as no applicable laws were in existence at that time. As a result, the E-commerce law was enacted by the Philippine Congress shortly thereafter.
CryptoLocker is a ransomware trojan who’s first appearance is traced back to September 2013. Spread through infected email attachments, once opened the malware infected files on local and networked drives and turned them into encrypted files. Though the malware could be removed from the infected systems, the encrypted files could only be unlocked with a key obtained by paying a ransom. If you were lucky enough to have an offsite back-up unattached to your current server, you could restore your system after removing the malware. Not all victims were so lucky – it is estimated over $27 million was paid by infected users.
Traced back to 2009, Zeus is a trojan horse designed to pull passwords and other personal information from infected machines. Typically spread through phishing or by drive-by download, the creators of this virus managed to infiltrate numerous multinational companies. Using stolen log-ins and passwords, the perpetrators of this virus were able to take an estimated $70 million from victims.
A worm for Windows, Mydoom is an email attachment that masquerades as an email delivery error. Once installed, the virus propagated by sending itself to users in the email’s address book and launched denial of service attacks on multiple search engines. The end result was over $38.5 million in damages. Though started in 2004, it is believed to still exist in some form to this day.
One of the most notorious viruses, Conficker infected nearly 15 million computers by detecting a weakness in Windows security. Once installed, the “super worm” can effectively lock the user out of their computer, as well as infect any vulnerable machine networked to that computer. The worm blocked access to anti-security programs and sites and installed additional code to seize personal information from the infected machine.
Our last entry sounds like the plot of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Stuxnet was designed for cyberwarfare and was the first virus to cause actual physical damage to systems. It is believed the virus was created through a joint effort between Israelis and Americans to negatively impact Iranian nuclear efforts by damaging centrifuges used at an Iranian uranium enrichment facility.