A virtual war is going on. Companies and users are each day fighting to keep away millions and billions of potential threats. Huge amounts of money and time are being spent to secure corporations and individuals from being infected by digital attacks and infiltrating viruses.
Why do people make these viruses?
“Some people just want to see the world burn” would be a fitting quote but unfortunately/fortunately there are several motives for the development of these programs. Here is a small list of these
Knowing a person’s secrets, passwords and other personal information is an easy way to gain access to credit card information, bank accounts and other financial aspects that are digitally stored.
2. Organized attacks
Getting control of a large amount of computers can greatly benefit a single person with a motive to perhaps cripple a specific server through a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack. This basically overloads the server with too many requests forcing it to shut down.
3. To prove a point
Not all viruses are made to gain something or wreak havoc on servers but merely to get awareness of a security breach or a loophole they discovered. This was the case with the world’s first computer virus
The First Computer Virus
Before the widespread use of the internet we had a predecessor and similar system in the 70s used by the U.S Department of Defense called ARPANET. In 1971 a programmer named Bob Thomas designed the Creeper Virus which replicated itself into the ARPANET remote system and displayed the message “”I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!”In all its innocent this was all it did, and one could hope that was the end of it.
Following the birth of the internet the world has seen a huge explosion in virus threats from innocent fun pranks to high level security breaches on a government level.
How serious is this Threat?
Stuxnet (although technically a worm) is considered one of the biggest threats ever to be released into the world for its potential chain reaction impact. Stuxnet did not infect millions of computers worldwide as others do, but instead focused on high priority industrial goals.
One of the highest security breaches were 5 Iranian Nuclear plants where uranium was being enriched. Stuxnet succesfully damaged the plant’s hardware.
This attack is believed to not be the work of an individual, group or even a company but a government attack. There are speculations that a U.S and Israeli intelligence cooperation was behind Stuxnet to significantly slow down the Iranian nuclear program.
There is no doubt that cyberwarfare is a term we will be hearing more about in the future. Wars might not be fought with traditional weapons but by crippling a country’s power or water supply by shutting down their networks or even by targeting their financial system.
What can I as a regular user do?
When governments begin spending billions of dollars to penetrate high security systems, we as ordinary users have no chance of protection even with every antivirus or protection software from all known companies installed.
Thankfully ordinary users do not have to worry about these things unless they are secretly plotting to overthrow governments. The truth is most threats towards private users can be dealt with by having an antivirus and/or spyware program installed along with common sense (the good old “do not open .exe files from unknown sources” is still a valid tip)
We as users must be prepared for these attacks from people trying to exploit the weaknesses of our computer and naivety of the users.
Be cautious and when in doubt scan the threat or ignore the message altogether. Better safe than sorry.