Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

Summary: In the last 25 years, the state of the art in automated malfeasance has progressed to the point that it's part of the armory of international geopolitics.

TOPICS: Security

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  • Named after a lapdancer and released in a document posted to the Usenet newsgroup, Melissa had a salacious start in life. Users who opened the document, eager to read the 80 passwords to porn sites promised within, found that the document immediately forwarded itself to the first 50 people in their address book. Which could take a whole lot of 'splainin.

    The virus created so much email that many companies had to turn off their internet gateway to regain control of their systems. As a result, the writer — a 30-year-old man called David Smith — got a 20-month prison sentence, despite helping the FBI track down and nab other virus writers.

    Photo credit: JR Whipple

  • The ILOVEYOU worm was a devastatingly fast-spreading and effective combo of social engineering and Windows design flaw exploitation. The cost of clean-up and lost work due to the worm, also known as the Love Bug, is thought to total between $5bn and $10bn.

    The worm was the work of two Filipino students who were caught, but the case was dropped because there was no applicable law at the time. ILOVEYOU used Microsoft's Visual Basic Scripting (VBS) to forward itself to the contents of the host's Outlook address book. It also overwrote files with copies of itself and tweaked the Windows registry.

    It spread around 15 times faster than Melissa, according to the US Army. With at least 50 million computers infected and many large organisations having to shut off internet access, ILOVEYOU highlighted the vulnerabilities within Windows and sparked off large amounts of criticism and me-too infections.

    Photo credit: F-Secure

  • A specialized worm that demonstrated quite how subtle attack vectors could be, Santy used search engines — Google at first, then Yahoo and AOL — to find vulnerable sites running phpBB bulletin board software, which it then attacked. It spread worldwide in less than three hours.

    The most unusual aspect of the worm was that someone then produced an anti-Santy worm that used the same techniques to find and infect phpBB installations, but then patched the problem and inoculated the sites against further attack.

    Photo credit: CNET News

Topic: Security

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

    Those are Windows viruses, not PC viruses. BTW Linux and Mac users need not worry about viruses because viruses only affect Windows
    • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world


    • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world


      You might as well go jump of a building, because if you are as stupid as you sound, you are not going anywhere in this life.
      • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

        @daniejam Yah right genius, the first three virus was target to the window, really brilliant.
    • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

      Oh and what do you call mac defender 2011 ?
      • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

        @rparker009 that would be phishing software, classified more under "spyware" than a traditional virus.
      • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

        Yeah! One Mac virus since 1984 ... a just a couple on Windows since 1990 =/
    • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

      Windows was not arround in 86 nor was macs
      • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

        @rparker009 Windows was first released around 1983 or so. It wasn't exactly a huge seller, but it was out there.
    • Correct.

      @shellcodes_coder ... Use Ubuntu or Linux Mint and you are free of infections, spyware, slowdowns, botnets. Leave all them for the Microsoft crowd to deal with. Don't use AV, don't restrict your browsing and you will NOT get infected.<br><br>My family has been using Linux for 9 years without any AV. We have gotten no infections or interruptions of any kind. The Linux Mint website even says you don't have to use anti-virus :) <br><br>If you disagree. Then I suggest you try Ubuntu or Mint and try to get infected. The poeple saying this isn't the case are just blowhards that never even tried LInux.
      • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

        @Joe.Smetona How much have you actually gotten done during that time? Do any family members play WoW, or any other MMORPG? It's not about whether or not you got a virus on the computer--it's about how much you got done while you weren't getting a virus on the computer.

        I haven't gotten a computer virus for over a decade. I think it's because of the firewall and other preventative measures I have in place.

        And dude--The Linux Mint website sure takes a lot for granted. Anyone who trusts "the line" deserves whatever happens next...someone is bound to start writing viruses--it's not that difficult!
      • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

        Slide 3:Morris worm (1988)
        the worm used a batch of security flaws in Unix and was launched surreptitiously.
      • Linux defines security.

        @Rinazi ... Mint provides everything required. I use a 64 bit dual core HP that was purchased new without an OS. I have a 2GB ATI 16X PCI card with custom ATI Linux driver. I have a wireless Mouse with a Bamboo tablet and a really nice Logitech illuminated keyboard.

        I use a Chrome 64, a 64 bit browser that actually works. Google Earth, Google Picasa, Filezilla, TrueCrypt, Opera, Lynx, Bluefish, LibreOffice, Gimp, and many other included programs along with installing additional graphics programs from the included repository of 33,000 free applications. For example, Scribus uses XML technology and is actually more powerful than Microsoft Publisher.

        With OpenOffice (now LibreOffice) my daughter was able to complete PowerPoint, Word Document and Spreadsheet assignments for high school and college without using MS Office. People using Linux survive just fine. LInux Mint and Ubuntu do not require external protection programs Like Windows.

        They have the Novell Security Suite and LSM (Linux Security Module) and the intrinsic design of LInux does not allow programs to be automatically installed Like Windows.

        Also, Linux can have up to 16 independent desktops for multitasking. I run CAD applications on Linux that were meant for Windows. It's not a big deal and they work much better, even complex 3D rendering.

        The TDL-4 botnet infected 4.5 million Windows users in the first three months of 2011. It's now mid August and not a word was reported at ZDNet. So someone just using ZDNet as a source would not even know about it. So 4.5 million of your friends aren't as lucky as you.,qdr:w

        Windows users get brain freeze whenever open source code is brought up. They dismiss it as not important. But, if Windows security is so dismal now, with closed source, what would happen if the source code was published. Linux has been open source since 1991 for the OS and the kernel and has been secure the entire time. The most popular AV for Linux is called "Clam" if you install it, you soon discover it checks for Windows malware that does not infect Linux.

        I don't play games, but I wouldn't play them on a PC anyway. XBOX 360 is not multitasking, so when it loads a game, there is nothing else detracting from performance. That's why they are so popular.

        I can replace Windows with Linux Mint in two schools, not install AV and walk away without even training the faculty. That was months ago and I haven't had a problem call since they were installed.
      • Linux is not Unix.

        @FrankAnon ... 1988? Unix. Have you ever worked on Unix? I have and I would take Unix over any MS Windows product anytime.

        <i>"Additionally, the Morris worm worked by exploiting known vulnerabilities in Unix sendmail, finger, and rsh/rexec, as well as weak passwords. Due to reliance on rsh (normally disabled on untrusted networks) it should not succeed with the recent properly configured system."</i>

        <i>"It is usually reported that around 6,000 major UNIX machines were infected by the Morris worm. Paul Graham has claimed[3] that

        "I was there when this statistic was cooked up, and this was the recipe: someone guessed that there were about 60,000 computers attached to the Internet, and that the worm might have infected ten percent of them."</i>

        And you're using technical information from a ZDNet article. ZDNet is an "untrusted source" Just ask them about the TDL-4 botnet - see above.
      • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

        and how would you know that you are not infected?
        i'm a linux admin, and a lot of ppl got that wrong about linux , trace your system , monitor it carefully you will find a lot of crap on it. just the same way with windows but without a software that popsup and says oh you got blabla.gen
    • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

      @shellcodes_coder Obvious troll is obvious.
      • He's telling the truth.

        @Kolo21892 ... Check out the great ZDNet story on the TDL-4 Windows botnet that infected 4.5 million Windows users in the first three months of 2011. Wooops, that story was never reported at ZDNEt, but here's a link to about 15,000 stories posted by others in the last week.,qdr:w

        Also, to further your education, here's a list of WINDOWS botnets that don't get too much press in these parts.:

        Microsoft's dirty little secret is safe with you. Obviously, you must be the obvious troll.

        Microsoft Botnet Applications and # infections

        Akbot ???
        Asprox 15,000
        Bagle 230,000
        Bobax 185,000
        BredoLab 30,000,000
        Conficker 10,500,000
        Cutwall 1,500,000
        DonBot 125,000
        Festi ???
        Gheg 30,000
        Grum 560,000
        Gumblar ???
        Kraken 495,000
        Lethic 260,000
        Maazben 50,000
        Mariposa 12,000,000
        Mega-D 509,000
        Nucrypt 20,000
        Onewordsub 40,000
        Rustock 150,000
        Spamthru 12,000
        Srizbi 450,000
        Storm 160,000
        Stuxnet ???
        Torpig 180,000
        TDL-4 4,500,000
        Waledac 80,000
        Wopia 20,000
        Xarvester 10,000
        Zeus 3,600,000

        .plus many more.
    • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world


      Lol are you high?
    • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world


      You're kidding....right?
    • RE: Gallery: Ten computer viruses that changed the world

      Too all those people who think that am trolling: am not trolling am just stating the fact. UNIX based machines are virtually virus free and are more secure than Windows. MacDefender is not a virus, it's a trojan.