P.S. I Love You (Really?)

16 Mar

No, you most likely wouldn’t want to see nor hear of anyone muttering these three life changing words to you, if you knew..

With the welcoming of a new century on our hands in 2000, the world was also welcoming a new century of computer bugs. These new-age bugs weren’t just the most destructive to our precious computers but also fanciful and full of trickery up their sleeve. It started with:

  • 2000: ILOVEYOU
  • 2001: Code Red
  • 2003: Blaster, Sobig.F and SQL Slammer
  • 2004: Bagle, MyDoom and Sasser

Aren’t these titles attractive?

Hold up on your answers because what you’re going to be presented with next will change the way you see them…

As the bugs take their fanciness up a notch, the damages they bring about also increases, almost ten fold a time in monetary terms. This could be interesting to some and extremely boring to others. But this information will serve beneficial when it comes to protecting yourself (and your computer) from viruses. I will let you in on just a couple of my favourites lest I overwhelm you with all these tech talk.

Also known as Loveletter and The Love Bug, the ILOVEYOU worm was a visual basic script with an ingenious and irresistible catch: the promise of love. In 2000, the ILOVEYOU worm was first detected in Hong Kong. This bug was transmitted via e-mail with the subject line “ILOVEYOU” and an attachment, Love-Letter-For-You.TXT.vbs. which mailed itself to all Microsoft Outlook contacts.

The virus also took the liberty of overwriting music files, image files, and others with a copy of itself. More disturbingly, it searched out user identifications and passwords on infected machines and e-mailed them to its author. The estimated damage it brought along was 10 to 15 billion dollars!

Then Code Red unleashed itself in 2001, a particularly virulent bug because of its target: computers running Microsoft’s Internet Information Server (IIS) web server. This worm was able to exploit a specific vulnerability in the IIS operating system. Code Red was also known as Bady and was designed for maximum damage. Upon infecting your computer, the website controlled by the affected server would display the message, “HELLO! Welcome to http://www.worm.com! Hacked By Chinese!”

Thereafter, the virus would actively seek other vulnerable servers and infect them. This would go on for approximately 20 days, then launching denial-of-service attacks on certain IP addresses, including the White House web server. In less than a week, this virus infected almost 400,000 servers, and it’s estimated that one million total computers were infected, with a monetary damage of 2.6 billion dollars.

Following Code Red came Sobig.F in 2003. Catchy and descriptive name for the worm if I may say. Living up to its name, Sobig.F made it to the computer viruses’ Hall of Fame by generating over 1 million copies of itself in its first 24 hours. The virus infected host computers via innocuously named e-mail attachments such as application.pif and thank_you.pif. When activated, this worm transmitted itself to e-mail addresses discovered on a host of local file types. The end result was massive amounts of Internet traffic and a damage of 5 to 10 billion dollars. Here’s how it looked like:

Lastly, meet MyDoom, which made its debut in 2004. This shockwave could be felt around the world as this worm spread at an unprecedented rate across the Internet via e-mail. The worm (a.k.a Norvarg) spread itself in a particularly devious manner by transmitting itself as an attachment in what appeared to be an e-mail error message containing the text “Mail Transaction Failed.” Clicking on the attachment spammed the worm to e-mail addresses found in address books. MyDoom also attempted to spread via the shared folders of users’ Kazaa peer-to-peer networking accounts. The replication was so successful that computer security experts have speculated that one in every 10 e-mail messages sent during the first hours of infection contained the virus. Victims met their doom as while at its peak, it slowed global Internet performance by 10% and web load times by up to 50%.

So dear Readers, if this hasn’t already gotten you thinking about installing protection for your computer in the form of firewalls or the like, just a gentle reminder: Precaution is better than Cure!

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