4 Crazy Real-life Stories about Virus Protection

Want to know the damage malware can do? Check out these 4 crazy real-life stories about virus protection! Includes the Morris Worm, Ransomware & more.
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Written by Staff Writer • Posted on Feb 15, 2016

When you look up information about computer viruses, you'll find statistics, stark facts, and names that only make sense to computer programmers. The numbers that turn up tens of millions created every day, billions of dollars in damage to the economy make virus protection appear overwhelming. You might wonder: what do these huge numbers have to do with me?

To answer that question, here are four real stories taken from computer virus history that should make the effects of malware a little easier to understand.

Story the First: The Well-Intentioned Worm

The Morris Worm is widely considered to be the first Internet virus but its creator did not make it with the intent of causing harm. In 1988, Robert Morris, a graduate student at Cornell University, decided to try measuring the Internet. To do this, he created a program that would implant itself in Unix computers as it traveled around using networking commands.

The problem was that the worm had a 14% chance of copying itself if it detected another copy in a computer, causing it to duplicate multiple times within thousands of computers and slowing them down considerably.

Robert Morris became the first person to be convicted of Computer Fraud and Abuse because his worm had caused thousands of dollars in lost productivity. He readily admitted his short-sightedness, saying he should have tested the worm's replication process before sending it into the wild.

Story the Second: Fighting Virus with Virus

In a tale similar to the Morris Worm, in 2004 a 17-year old boy in Germany was arrested for spreading 70% of all current Internet malware which was the opposite of his intentions. This high school student had set out to develop a program that would catch and destroy the MyDoom virus, an email attachment virus that clogged inboxes with pointless messages.

The first form of the virus-killing virus was called Netsky, which had some success until MyDoom's creator caught on and updated the virus. The response to this was called Sasser, which had the unintended side-effect of causing infected computers to reboot constantly.

Within 48 hours of its release, Sasser had infected 1.3 million computers, halted rail service in Australia, forced banks to shut down branches, and paralyzed one-third of Taiwan's postal service.

The German youth's goal were admirable, but he lacked the experience needed to program an anti-virus safely. It's best to leave virus protection to the experts working at labs like Trend Micro, Total Defense and Norton, and stick to using the products they release.

Story the Third: Spying is Bad

Viruses may seem like they come around by accident, or that they're the work of an evil genius. In fact, just about anyone can distribute a virus if they possess a copy and a little know-how. Of course, that doesn't mean they should.

A couple years ago, a German security official decided to install a bit of spyware on his daughter's computer so he could monitor her Internet usage. This backfired when one of his daughter's friends found the spyware and decided to hack his computer in retaliation. Through the hack, the kid was eventually able to access several secure areas of Germany's federal police databases.

Story the Fourth: Your Money or Your Data

Malware usually comes in a couple varieties: the quiet subtle kind that logs your keystrokes or opens backdoors for cybercriminals, or the flashy obnoxious kind that locks up your system for a while. Ransomware takes the worst aspects of both types and puts them together for a nerve-wrenching attack on your computer. I can speak from personal experience on that front.

I still don't know how it happened, but one day, my computer was locked up and the screen was filled with a message claiming to be from the FBI. The message said my computer had been put on lockdown due to the presence of illegal material (such as pornography), and that I needed to pay a $200 fine to get my computer back.

Even though I: 1) knew I was innocent of any wrongdoing, 2) noticed several instances of poor English in the message, and 3) harbored serious doubts that the FBI would operate this way, paranoia nearly won out. Although I was able to remove the virus, my computer wasn't quite the same, and eventually I had to re-install Windows.

There's a lot of malware out there, and it can devastate individuals who don't take precautions with their computer security. Don't let yourself become another story in the battle against malware! Practice safe Internet usage with strong virus protection, and if you're ever in trouble, call your savvy Technology Advisor for fast and friendly help.

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