Most of us have had first-hand experiences with computer malware. The rest of us have heard innumerable stories about the notoriety of computer malware. Today, we are going to retrospect three such computer malware programs that created the most havoc in the history of computers.
Computer malware is believed to be as old as computer programming. However, the arrival of the internet accelerated its spread and reach to a whole new level. A study by AV-test shows that over 350,000 new malicious programs are developed every single day!
Besides infecting computers and operating systems, malware infections have become way too common on web applications as well. These malware are known to cause redirection, credit card hacks, spam, malicious pop-ups, etc. on a website.
Top Three Notorious Malware of All Times!
Over the years, we have seen innumerable computer virus cases, but only a handful were as astonishing as to get a place in this article.
A computer virus does all kinds of damage to your computer and data. From completely locking your computer to rewriting your files, the consequences of a malware attack have no bounds. However, unlike the attacks in the bygone years, today there is a more definite agenda behind a malware attack. Be it spyware, ransomware or any other malware, it’s been designed to fulfill a purpose; be it stealing data or to extorting money.
Let’s jump right to the malware cases, which caused the most upheavals in people’s lives:
The WannaCry ransomware attack outbroke globally in May 2017. It targeted personal computers operating on Windows outdated versions. Essentially, WannaCry propagated through an attack framework called EternalBlue, designed by the National Security Agency to simulate an exploit on older versions of Microsoft windows.
It encrypted several files and other data and demanded a ransom in bitcoins for the decryption key.
The wannaCry malware thrived for a few months before an emergency patch was released by Microsoft and a kill switch was discovered. The attack came to an end in December 2017.
It is believed that the attack originated from North Korea although the culprit was never identified.
CryptoLocker was a Trojan that was pervasive in 2013. It spread through seemingly harmless email attachments, which contained a zip file with a malicious .exe file disguised as a harmless PDF file. Once opened, the attack was unleashed and CryptoLocker encrypted certain files (including OpenDocument, pictures, AutoCAD files, etc.) on the system and the connected hard drives. It propagated through the then well-established botnet Gameover Zeus.
The attackers then demanded a sum amounting anywhere between $400 to $1000 for the decryption key that they stored on their servers. The payment also came with a deadline. Those who did not meet the deadline had to pay an even larger amount for the decryption key.
The attack remained in full power for almost a year until the FBI launched a counter -operation called Tovar that brought down the Gameover Zeus botnet in May 2014. Till then, it had already infected over 200,000 computers and culminated a loss of millions of dollars.
Stuxnet was the most deadly computer worm ever created. It was believed to have been built by government officials in America & Israel to gain illicit control over the Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) in Iran. It broke out in 2010 and targeted the industrial system in Iran.
Stuxnet malware is believed to have destroyed nearly one-fifth of all nuclear centrifuges in Iran at the time. Though not officially named a cyberweapon, Stuxnet was nothing less than that.
Stuxnet malware was introduced via an infected USB flash drive and used three modules – a worm, a link file, a rootkit, to propagate. Ultimately, it gained control of the Siemens Step7 software that controlled the PLC’s in Iran and caused them to destruct on their own.
Learn how to protect yourself from these attacks
Computer malware is a grave problem. Once malware gets hold of your computer/data, it can cause severe damage to it or worse completely erase it. We have already seen how malware caused millions of dollars in damages in system and data. Of course, all malware is not as lethal, but even then it can be a nuisance. It causes your computer to run slow and possibly even crash.
Fortunately, taking due security measures and implementing proper prevention methods can dodge any such attacks. Let’s take a look at how:
- Use Anti-virus & Anti-malware Software
Using an antivirus program protects your computer against malware. But keep in mind that most viruses are designed to attack anti-virus programs, and if you do not have a good antivirus program, you will likely find that your computer is being attacked by malware programs all the time.
Back then, when the replicating and overwriting malware was in full force, an anti-virus became essential. However, the computer virus has undergone quite a transformation and has more types added to it every single day. An anti-malware program can be more apt to counter such cases.
For websites, using a quality firewall is also a recommendation. It can filter oncoming malicious traffic to your site and discourage attacks coming your way.
- Run updated versions
The latest versions of operating systems such as Windows, Linux, ios, etc. come with security patches that were missing in the previous versions. Not moving to safer versions in due time can result in a mishap. Hence, always be on top of the update game to protect yourself from malware attacks.
- Keep a tab on email spam and malicious attachments
Nine out of ten malware spread through email. Phishing, Social engineering, spam have become too common today. However, people are yet to become aware of tools and software that can keep a tab on spam emails. Besides deploying tools to flag or filter out these malicious emails, being observant of the legitimacy of an email is something you have to practice yourself.
- Scan your computer/websites often
Take advantage of free scanning tools available online to find out if your computer has any history of computer malware. Many times, people don’t know if they have been infected with malware or not. Scanning your system with malware scanners can avoid such situations.
In addition to that, detecting loopholes in your system is also crucial to patch them before it lands in the hands of a hacker. This process of identifying your vulnerabilities is known as “Vulnerability Assessment”. Learn how to conduct a website security audit with this article here.
- Get a secure Virtual Private Network
Your PC or website will always be at risk unless you have secured your network. The ramifications of using a shared network or a public wi-fi are plenty. Further, we are all aware of the works of keyloggers and skimmers online. Switching to a VPN network also secures data transfer over the web and maintains your privacy online.
The impact of Malicious software can be disastrous. Keeping safe is not an option but a necessity. The security methods listed in the article, although necessary, is not all. For the complete lock-out of malware, follow this link.