In the current cyber environment, malware is nothing new. Users understand that there are malicious individuals out there, vying for access to their most guarded personal information. However, oftentimes, it is the businesses that these people have connections with that feels the brunt of a cyberattack.
These days, an increasing number of enterprises comes forward to report being the victim of a hacker activity. As a result, several vendors, including Trend Micro, now provide best-in-class virus protection software to prevent cyberattackers from prying into their most sensitive and secretive databases.
To gain a better understanding of cybercriminals and their malicious abilities, let’s take a step back in time to examine some of the worst computer viruses and malware samples ever seen.
The rise of ransomware
While a more recent attack technique, many experts have called ransomware samples some of the worst infections they’ve ever seen. Such was the case when ransomware attacks utilizing some individuals’ fear of authority surfaced in late 2013.
According to ABC News affiliate WFAA 8, Plano, Illinois resident Bradley Anderson was one of many to fall victim to this type of attack. Within a ransomware infection, a notification appears on the user’s screen alerting them that law enforcement officials are aware of a digital crime that the person has committed. More often than not, the user has not done anything wrong, but hackers use this fear to trick victims.
The notification also explains that due to the crime, the user has been locked out of their files until they pay a fee. Typically, the warning also alludes that it is from an official law enforcement body. In Anderson’s case, hackers claimed to be the FBI and demanded a ransom for the user’s files to be unlocked.
“All of a sudden, it fills the entire screen,” Anderson told WFAA 8. “And I’m clicking on everything but the pay here window. I ask myself, ‘how do I get out of it?’”
After samples like this first appeared, they were dubbed ransomware. Specifically, one sample – Cryptolocker – became a widespread threat, infecting and locking the files of countless individuals. In addition, the effects of the strain have been a mixed bag: A small number of victims that paid the fine reported having their files unlocked. However, more often than not, the files remained under the control of hackers whether or not the fine was paid.
The Storm Worm of 2007
According to ZDNet, while a similar worm attack occurred in 1988, the Storm Worm of 2007 was one of the worst attacks in recent memory. Victims were tricked into opening a malware laced email with the subject head “230 dead as storm batters Europe.” The infection – a backdoor Trojan that targeted Microsoft devices – would connect affected computers together in a bot-net of devices able to be remotely controlled by hackers. ZDNet contributor Gery Menegaz noted that this botnet was particularly larger than many seen previously, or since then.
“Though it was thought to be a botnet of millions of computers, the exact numbers were never known,” Menegaz wrote.
The MyDoom virus
This malware strain, which first appeared in 2004, was another worm that made its way through infected computers via an email message. This technique utilized this time, however, was making the email appear as a bounced message, coaxing the user into opening it to ensure their last sent message reached its specified receiver. Once opened, though, the virus automatically downloaded its malicious code into the device, and was thereby able to rifle through the user’s Outlook address book, according to Norton.
This type of infection was especially damaging for corporate workers, as many times, their contact lists include the personal information – names, phone numbers, email, office and home addresses – of their coworkers, partners and other business people. These credentials could then be utilized by hackers to impersonate the person for fraudulent purposes.
All told, around 2 million PCs were infected with the MyDoom virus, especially since the malware used the contact list to expand its reach to the victim’s family, friends and colleagues.
“MyDoom contained the text ‘andy; I’m just doing my job, nothing personal, sorry,’ which led many to believe that the virus was constructed for a fee for a spammer, though this also was not confirmed,” Menegaz wrote.
Norton also noted that MyDoom was the fastest spreading worm infection ever seen.