Malicious software, also known as malware, comes in many different forms. One form of malware that has become an increasingly large threat in recent years is what’s known as ransomware.
While most malware simply steals information or spies on you, ransomware is a unique kind of malware that actually steals money from victims. Here’s how it works.
You turn on your computer and enter your login credentials. But instead of seeing your desktop, you see a red screen with a message telling you your files have been encrypted. All you have to do to get them back is send a certain amount of cryptocurrency to a particular address. Your data has been taken ransom, which is where ransomware gets its name from.
WannaCry: One of the Biggest Cyberattacks Ever
The most notorious form of ransomware to date was known as the WannaCry virus. The outbreak of WannaCry was the worse ransomware attack in history. The attack was first unleashed in May of 2017 and didn’t target any specific users. The outbreak affected many people and organizations on all seven continents.
One variant of the WannaCry virus had a worm component. This means that the virus was able to automatically replicate itself and spread to as many other machines as it possibly could. For example, if a computer on a corporate network had been infected with WannaCry, the virus could quickly spread to all other machines on the network, holding all of them hostage. This did, in fact, happen to a number of organizations in 2017.
Just how widespread was the WannaCry attack? Avast, a cybersecurity company that makes antivirus software, reported on their blog that at its peak, there were over 10,000 WannaCry attacks being detected every hour, which is an extraordinarily high number. And there could have been additional infections that went undetected as well.
The WannaCry virus was first created by the National Security Agency (NSA) but made public by a group called the Shadow Brokers, who released a trove of NSA documents in April 2017. The individual responsible for stopping the WannaCry attack was a secretive hacker known as MalwareTech. Later that same year, MalwareTech was hunted down in Las Vegas by the FBI, and they had the hacker arrested for creating malware that could steal banking information from infected devices.
Some Other Infamous Viruses
While WannaCry is one of the most recent big computer viruses, there have been many others like it. In 2000, for example, the biggest computer virus of all time was known as the ILOVEYOU virus. This virus was also a self-replicating worm. It infected users by getting them to click on an attachment entitled “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU-TXT-vbs.” The attachment came in an email with a tagline that said: “I love you.”
ILOVEYOU overwrite personal files and system files and kept on spreading itself without end. Even after the virus hit world headlines, people still kept clicking on the email attachments out of curiosity. Hopefully, today’s internet users have grown somewhat wiser and have the common sense to not click on unknown links or attachments. ILOVEYOU even made the Guinness Book of World Records for the “most virulent” virus of all time.
Some Other Famous Hackers
The hacker known as MalwareTech is not the only of his kind, either. While MalwareTech became famous for stopping WannaCry, other hackers have become known for more malicious activities.
Take Albert Gonzales, for example. Gonzales was responsible for the biggest credit card heist in human history. By installing a sniffing program on corporate networks, he was able to sniff out the information of over 170 million credit cards. He then sold the cards to other criminals. He was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
Kevin Mitnick is another world-famous hacker. Mitnick was, at one time, the most wanted cybercriminal in the USA. Today he works as a successful security consultant. But years ago, he was convicted of hacking into some of the biggest telecommunications companies in the world and even hacked The Pentagon.
In the end, there’s no question that technology is threatening our privacy to a certain degree. That’s why being privacy-conscious is more important than ever. Don’t fall victim to attacks like ransomware.