5 of the Spookiest Tech Threats of All Time
Even with Halloween approaching and the rash of clown scares the U.S. has experienced this year, there’s not much scarier than a computer virus that threatens to destroy your personal files or — perhaps even worse — your business’ files and ability to operate. Take the malware Mirai, for instance, which, in recent weeks, temporarily took down Netflix, Twitter, Etsy, Airbnb, Reddit and other major websites. If you love a good ghost story, perhaps you’ll enjoy this. Read on to learn about five of the top tech threats of all time, courtesy of the information technology experts here at Frontier IT in Colorado Springs. Lest you think we’re all tricks and no treats, we’ll throw in a bonus happy ending: a simple, affordable step you can take to protect your business assets. (Just think of us as that house on your street with all the best candy.)
Few viruses have initially appeared so innocent— warm-hearted, even. Perhaps that’s why the ILOVEYOU virus, also known as Love Letter, was one of the most destructive ever created. Launched in May 2000 from the Philippines, this worm caused damages totaling an estimated $10 billion to computers worldwide, affecting roughly 10 percent of the world’s internet-connected computers. The hook? Unwitting email users were encouraged to open an attachment that supposedly contained a love confession. What appeared to be a harmless text file was actually a Visual Basic script that, once opened, emailed itself to everyone in a user’s Windows Address Book and rendered the computer inoperable. Just how bad did it get? “A Pentagon office that compiles news clippings sent the ‘ILOVEYOU’ message to all recipients on its mailing list, including contacts at the Central Intelligence Agency, Civil Air Patrol, General Accounting Office, military commands and the National Infrastructure Protection Center,” according to a May 4, 2000, article on ZDNet.
Not since ILOVEYOU had a computer virus spread so quickly. In 2004 the Mydoom virus hit email users en masse, encouraging them to open a worm disguised as a text document with an email transmission error message. Once open, the worm installed a keystroke program, allowing credit card numbers and other sensitive information to be captured. After launching its own SMTP engine, Mydoom sent itself to other email addresses it discovered on a user’s system and, when applicable, made a copy of itself in a user’s Kazaa (file-sharing server) download folder. All told, the virus and spin-off viruses were estimated to have caused $38.5 billion in damage. A leading antivirus expert of the time called Mydoom “the worst e-mail worm incident in virus history.”
Christmas Tree EXEC
It was December 1987 — a time of Christmas cheer, family gatherings and good will toward men … or not. A student at a German university created this email worm — considered to be the first widely destructive worm — and disseminated it via academic research networks in the U.S. and Europe, as well as via IBM’s private network. The email asked recipients to “just type CHRISTMAS.” Once a recipient did, the virus launched a script that emailed itself to the recipient’s contacts. It also displayed a charming Christmas tree made of ASCII characters with the message “A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND MY BEST WISHES FOR THE NEXT YEAR.” While the damage caused may have been trivial, Christmas Tree EXEC would serve as a model for countless malicious email worms to come — ILOVEYOU in particular.
The Sobig worm— or series of worms, rather — was another heavy hitter, causing an estimated $37.1 billion in damage when released in the spring of 2003. Like countless email viruses before it, Sobig was activated when an unsuspecting user opened an email attachment, causing the virus to send itself to email addresses it harvested from the user’s computer. But that wasn’t all. Some versions of Sobig attempted to download a trojan that would leave a user’s computer vulnerable to additional attacks, while others installed a keylogger capable of recording private data like credit card numbers. Until the advent of Mydoom, Sobig was widely considered to be the most destructive computer virus of all time. According to an Aug. 22, 2003, CNN article, the sixth version of Sobig “briefly brought freight and computer traffic in Washington, D.C. to a halt, grounded Air Canada and slowed down computer systems at many major companies such as advanced technology firm Lockheed Martin.”
Remember what we said about few viruses sounding so innocent as the ILOVEYOU virus? Add the Pikachu virus to that elite club. Named after a rounded yellow children’s cartoon character with an infectious smile, the Pikachu virus specifically targeted children. (Pretty messed up, right?) The virus arrived in an email titled “Pikachu Pokemon” with the text “Pikachu is your friend” in the body. Once a user opened the email’s attachment, a picture of Pokemon would appear with a short, cryptic message. The Pikachu virus would then send itself to others in a user’s address book and attempt to delete two critical Windows operating system directories upon system reboot. (Fortunately for victims, Windows would ask whether or not they wanted the directories deleted, rendering the virus much less effective.)
Frightened? We would say “we are too,” but we’re not — we spend our days, nights, weekends and entire careers staying abreast of the latest malware and proactively protecting our business and that of our clients. But we get it. It’s crazy, scary stuff. And it gets spookier (and more sophisticated) all the time.
What’s a business owner to do? We recommend contacting a managed service provider, or MSP. MSPs are like large, top-notch IT departments that offer their services to small- and mid-sized businesses at prices those businesses can afford. MSPs like Frontier IT can ensure your business has the antivirus software it needs, backup your company’s files in case of a disaster, protect and monitor your servers, and so much more. (Interested? Drop us a line today.)
When your small business partners with an MSP like Frontier IT, you succeed. We succeed. Everyone succeeds … except the black-hats. Take a hike, black-hats. No Halloween candy for you! And we hope you like coal in your stocking, because we’re writing to Santa about you too … but that’s another topic for another holiday.
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