Come on, fhqwhgads. Remember the “I Love You” virus? The Conficker worm? It’s time to push back the ones and zeroes and take a look at the top five computer viruses that once drove us crazy.
1. I Love You
The 2000 “I Love You” virus as the designation of being the first widespread computer virus, even though it came a full 18 years later after the first true computer virus, 1982’s Elk Cloner. This was the virus that taught us all not to click on untrustworthy-looking attachments. “I Love You” was a simple virus: it included an email with the text “I love you” and a mysterious attachment, and when you clicked the attachment it overwrote your image files and sent itself to the first 50 contacts in your address book. Some love letter, indeed.
2. Code Red
The “I Love You” virus primarily targeted personal computing. Not so with Code Red, which launched in 2001 and immediately took down corporate and government websites, including Whitehouse.gov. After Code Red, businesses started getting serious about using enterprise-level antivirus software, and viruses had to get more and more sophisticated to sneak around the protective systems.
3. The Conficker Worm
Dubbed the “super worm,” the Conficker virus showed up in November 2009 and quickly spread from computer to computer via weak passwords, security breaches, and infected USB drives. As the virus spread, messages went around advertising that Conficker would “activate” on April Fools’ Day, 2010. Well, April 1 came and went, and although thousands of computers are still infected with the Conficker virus, the virus itself has not directly harmed any systems. As The Register put it: “Conficker lies dormant… for now.”
Ever wonder about the true security of those “secure questions” you answer to log into your bank or access important sites? After all, anyone with a Facebook account could figure out the model of the first car you drove or your paternal grandfather’s first name. The 2007 Zeus virus didn’t even bother searching Facebook; instead, it scraped your personal information, including the answers to your supposedly secure questions, and sold them online for identity thieves to exploit. If you experienced any credit card fraud or identity theft on or around 2007, the Zeus virus may have been involved.
In 2010, everyone interested in international relations was talking about Stuxnet, the computer virus responsible for literally causing Iranian uranium centrifuges to shut down. To quote ABC News: “Stuxnet was designed to infiltrate the computer system at an Iranian nuclear facility, physically damage the facility’s infrastructure by throwing off automated systems and cover its tracks so that even if engineers were monitoring those systems, everything would appear normal.”
That ABC News article has one more interesting piece of information: according to whistleblower Edward Snowden, Stuxnet was a collaboration between the US National Security Agency and Israel. Whether this is true is yet to be seen, but if it’s true, Stuxnet could go down in history not only as one of the first computer viruses to physically damage factory machinery, but also as one of the first successful covert cyber attacks.
The next scary computer virus is just as likely to take us by surprise as these famous five did when they first launched. So update your antivirus software, avoid clicking on any mysterious attachments, and be prepared… no one knows when or where the next super worm will appear.