Some of the worst computer viruses of all time

We’re going to take a look at 10 of the worst computer viruses.

1)Melissa virus.

It was then spring of 1999, a man named David L. Smith created a computer virus based on a Microsoft Word macro. He built the virus so that it could spread through e-mail messages. Smith named the virus “Melissa,” saying that he named it after an exotic dancer from Florida [source: CNN].The virus spread rapidly. The United States federal government became very interested in Smith’s work — according to statements made by FBI officials to Congress, the Melissa virus “wreaked havoc on government and private sector networks” [source: FBI]. The increase in e-mail traffic forced some companies to discontinue e-mail programs until the virus was contained.Smith  received a 20-month jail sentence for his work. Although, the Melissa virus didn’t cripple the Internet, but it was one of the first computer viruses to get the public’s attention.

2)I love you virus

A year after the Melissa scandal a digital menace emerged from the Asian side Philippines. Unlike the Melissa virus, this threat came in the form of a worm — it was a standalone program capable of replicating itself. The ILOVEYOU virus initially traveled the Internet by e-mail, just like the Melissa virus. The subject of the e-mail said that the message was a love letter from a secret admirer. An attachment in the e-mail was what caused all the trouble. The original worm had the file name of LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbs. The vbs extension pointed to the language the hacker used to create the worm: Visual Basic Scripting [source: McAfee].

Who created the ILOVEYOU virus? Some think it was Onel de Guzman of the Philippines. Filipino authorities investigated de Guzman on charges of theft — at the time the Philippines had no computer espionage or sabotage laws. Citing a lack of evidence, the Filipino authorities dropped the charges against de Guzman, who would neither confirm nor deny his responsibility for the virus. According to some estimates, the ILOVEYOU virus caused $10 billion in damages.

3)The Klez Virus

The Klez virus marked a new direction for computer viruses, setting the bar high for those that would follow. It debuted in late 2001, and variations of the virus plagued the Internet for several months. The basic Klez worm infected a victim’s computer through an e-mail message, replicated itself and then sent itself to people in the victim’s address book. Some variations of the Klez virus carried other harmful programs that could render a victim’s computer inoperable. Depending on the version, the Klez virus could act like a normal computer virus, a worm or a Trojan horse. It could even disable virus-scanning software and pose as a virus-removal tool [source: Symantec].

Shortly after it appeared on the Internet, hackers modified the Klez virus in a way that made it far more effective. Like other viruses, it could comb through a victim’s address book and send itself to contacts. But it could also take another name from the contact list and place that address in the “From” field in the e-mail client. It’s called spoofing — the e-mail appears to come from one source when it’s really coming from somewhere else.

4) Code Red and Code Red II

he Code Red and Code Red II worms popped up in the summer of 2001. Both worms exploited an operating system vulnerability that was found in machines running Windows 2000 and Windows NT. The vulnerability was a buffer overflow problem.A Windows 2000 machine infected by the Code Red II worm no longer obeys the owner. That’s because the worm creates a backdoor into the computer’s operating system, allowing a remote user to access and control the machine.

5)Nimda

In 2001,  it was the Nimda (which is admin spelled backwards) worm. that spread through the Internet rapidly, becoming the fastest propagating computer virus at that time.

6)SQL Slammer/Sapphire

In late January 2003, a new Web server virus spread across the Internet. Many computer networks were unprepared for the attack, and as a result the virus brought down several important systems. The Bank of America’s ATM service crashed, the city of Seattle suffered outages in 911 service and Continental Airlines had to cancel several flights due to electronic ticketing and check-in errors.The Slammer virus hit South Korea hard, cutting it off from the Internet and leaving Internet cafes like this one relatively empty.

7)Mydoom

he MyDoom (or Novarg) virus is another worm that can create a backdoor in the victim computer’s operating system. The original MyDoom virus — there have been several variants — had two triggers. One trigger caused the virus to begin a denial of service (DoS) attack starting Feb. 1, 2004. The second trigger commanded the virus to stop distributing itself on Feb. 12, 2004. Even after the virus stopped spreading, the backdoors created during the initial infections remained active

8)Sasser and Netsky

Sometimes computer virus programmers escape detection. But once in a while, authorities find a way to track a virus back to its origin. Such was the case with the Sasser and Netsky viruses. A 17-year-old German named Sven Jaschan created the two programs and unleashed them onto the Internet. While the two worms behaved in different ways, similarities in the code led security experts to believe they both were the work of the same person.

The Sasser worm attacked computers through a Microsoft Windows vulnerability. Unlike other worms, it didn’t spread through e-mail. Instead, once the virus infected a computer, it looked for other vulnerable systems. It contacted those systems and instructed them to download the virus. The virus would scan random IP addresses to find potential victims. The virus also altered the victim’s operating system in a way that made it difficult to shut down the computer without cutting off power to the system.

9) Leap-A/Oompa-A

Mac computers are partially protected from virus attacks because of a concept called security through obscurity. Apple has a reputation for keeping its operating system (OS) and hardware a closed system — Apple produces both the hardware and the software. This keeps the OS obscure. Traditionally, Macs have been a distant second to PCs in the home computer market. A hacker who creates a virus for the Mac won’t hit as many victims as he or she would with a virus for PCs.But that hasn’t stopped at least one Mac hacker. In 2006, the Leap-A virus, also known as Oompa-A, debuted. It uses the iChat instant messaging program to propagate across vulnerable Mac computers. After the virus infects a Mac, it searches through the iChat contacts and sends a message to each person . Message contains a corrupted file that appears to be an innocent JPEG image.

10) Storm Worm

It was late 2006 when computer security experts first identified the worm. The public began to call the virus the Storm Worm because one of the e-mail messages carrying the virus had as its subject “230 dead as storm batters Europe.” Antivirus companies call the worm other names. For example, Symantec calls it Peacomm while McAfee refers to it as Nuwar. This might sound confusing, but there’s already a 2001 virus called the W32.Storm.Worm. The 2001 virus and the 2006 worm are completely different programs.

The Storm Worm is a Trojan horse program. Its payload is another program, though not always the same one. Some versions of the Storm Worm turn computers into zombies or bots. As computers become infected, they become vulnerable to remote control by the person behind the attack. Some hackers use the Storm Worm to create a botnet and use it to send spam mail across the Internet.

Many versions of the Storm Worm fool the victim into downloading the application through fake links to news stories or videos. The people behind the attacks will often change the subject of the e-mail to reflect current events. For example, just before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, a new version of the worm appeared in e-mails with subjects like “a new deadly catastrophe in China” or “China’s most deadly earthquake.” The e-mail claimed to link to video and news stories related to the subject, but in reality clicking on the link activated a download of the worm to the victim’s computer [source: McAfee].

Several news agencies and blogs named the Storm Worm one of the worst virus attacks in years. By July 2007, an official with the security company Postini claimed that the firm detected more than 200 million e-mails carrying links to the Storm Worm during an attack that spanned several days [source: Gaudin]. Fortunately, not every e-mail led to someone downloading the worm.

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