It's that time of year again - when ghosts, ghouls, and goblins roam the street, when eating candy for breakfast is perfectly acceptable, and scaring the ever-loving crap out of your friends is encouraged...Obviously, we've got Halloween on the brain (Editors Note: braaaaaaiiins!), we've been screening Dead Set in the photo lab all week, our costumed coworkers are prowling the halls and everyone's got a good sugar buzz on. But our favorite part of Halloween isn't the candy - it's the creepy, crawly, chilling parts. And a computer virus is just as scary as a zombie outbreak. Below, we count down the 13 scariest computer viruses.
One botnet, two botnet, hahahaha!
The ILOVEYOU Worm was just a simple Visual Basic Script that wreaked havoc on just about every file on your hard drive. As if that weren’t devious enough, the ILOVEYOU Worm really shows off its demented roots with its method of deliveries: disguising itself as a love letter. It proved to be an extremely effective way to infect systems, claiming over 50 million victims in little over a month. We geeks tend to be a somewhat lonely bunch, and it’s just unfair to entice us with promises of love.
Even though the ILOVEYOU Worm was defeated ten years ago, its spirit lives on. Just a few months ago, the “Here you have” Worm tricked recipients into opening e-mail attachments claiming to be work-related documents. Fortunately, improved software security prevented this virus from being significantly successful, but its familiar delivery tactics remind us of the heartbreak of reformatting our beloved computers ten years ago.
FakeAlert Trojans have become alarmingly common lately, showing up in a multitude of flavors, such as Internet Security 2010, Antivirus 2011, Desktop Security 2010, and Security Essentials 2010. They infect their victims by creating advertisements that look like very convincing virus alerts. Clicking the ad then installs the “antivirus” program, which is actually the virus. Corporate and family computers are the most common victims, simply because workers and children are too embarrassed to admit they stumbled upon a virus and attempt to repair it themselves. Why is this so scary? Well, who do you think has to fix all these computers? Us, the computer geeks
The Alureon virus has come and gone over the years, but it is making another comeback by bundling itself with various FakeAlert Trojans. While its MO isn’t all that different from most Trojans, stealing passwords and credit card info, and causing Blue Screens of Death, it also does something very annoying. Alureon can hijack your search engine, turning simple Google quarries into links to even more viruses. Because it can redirect any link in your web browser, it makes downloading removal tools extremely difficult if you don’t have a spare computer.
Geeks have been pulling silly computer pranks on each other for as long as there have been computers. Some of the pranks are simple, like taking a screenshot of someone’s desktop, setting it as the wallpaper, and then hiding all of his desktop icons. Others are a bit more complex, like the Fake Virus of Doom. Just placing a simple flash video into your buddy’s Startup folder is all it takes to scare the crap out of him.
Kenzero is a recent virus, first popping up just a couple months ago. It’s not particularly prevalent, nor is it particularly destructive. Because it is distributed through P2P networks, the majority of its targets are those partaking in illegal file sharing, sort of like a villainous hero, but its MO is a bit more disturbing. Kenzero monitors and records the victims browsing habits and threatens to post them to the public unless the victim purchases certain items or installs certain programs. It’s a bit frightening and unsettling to think that our private lives can be exposed by a virus.
Mac commercials are always telling us that OSX is the most secure operating system available, completely impervious to viruses. Of course we all know that it isn’t true, but Mac systems do have the advantage of being less of a target. The BooNana virus is evidence that the tides are starting to turn. BooNana itself is a problem enough, commandeering your Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter accounts, but the scariest thought is considering what all of these upcoming viruses might do with all of the magic that Steve Jobs has put into the Apple line.
Another virus targeting an Apple device! iKee isn’t a particularly malevolent virus (more of an exhibition really). It targets users with jailbroken iPhones and performs a sort of Rickroll, changing the background to a photo of Rick Astley. iKee doesn’t affect those running official Apple firmware, but some may argue that succumbing to the will of Apple is worse than making yourself vulnerable to hackers.
With jailbroken iPhones being Rickrolled and open to certain forms of attack, it’s not surprising to hear that Google’s Android OS is susceptible to viruses as well. FakePlayer was the first virus to be discovered targeting Android OS. It spread in the form of a Trojan disguised as a media player, and once installed, it began sending SMS messages to charge-per-text phone numbers, raking in profits for the scammers and sending your phone through the roof. Not even our smartphones are safe anymore!
While it wasn’t the result of any single virus, the Mariposa Botnet was a very large network of over 13 million zombified PCs, and even though it was dismantled and its creators arrested earlier this year, one very scary fact still remains: the entire Mariposa Botnet was created by just a couple of amateur hackers using Kiddie Scripts. It used to be that only a handful of people in the world had the knowledge that it took to create such a complex network of bots, but now anyone with a basic understanding of computer programming and access to the write scripts can accomplish the same thing.
The first Storm Worm, from back in 2007, is probably one of the most notorious Botnets of recent history. In its heyday, the Storm Worm Botnet was estimated to be running on as many as 50 million computers, making it even more powerful than the top ten supercomputers of the time combined. The original implementation of the Storm Worm Botnet has been on a steep decline, ironically due to hackers making use of the systems for themselves, but earlier this year, McAfee confirmed that a second version of Storm Worm is on the rise.
Stuxnet is a worm that popped its ugly head up back in June of this year. On the surface, it’s just your run-of-the-mill virus, making use of standard exploits to spread and infect systems, stealing data and wreaking havoc. Things get a bit scarier as you look deeper into the code, though. Stuxnet is actually capable of reprogramming Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). While home computers are essentially unaffected, industrial, and even military systems, rely heavily on PLC configurations. Stuxnet could be considered to be a very rudimentary version of Skynet.
Speaking of Skynet, that brings us to our number one scariest computer virus of all. As everything in our lives becomes integrated with everything else, all tied together with a tangle of wires in cyberspace, it’s just a matter of time before every aspect of our lives to become vulnerable to cyber attacks. Encryptions, firewalls and cyber security will increase of course, but how can you stop an evil, super intelligent computer system intent on destroying the world as we know it? We must send the Governator of California back in time!