The Comprehensive History and Evolution of Malware

History and Evolution of Malware

The Comprehensive History and Evolution of Malware – From its obscure beginnings in the late 1980s to becoming a global cybersecurity concern, malware’s journey is both intriguing and alarming.

This deep dive explores the origins, transformation, and the high-profile digital culprits of our age, shedding light on how to shield ourselves in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

In today’s digitally-driven era, the importance of understanding cyber threats cannot be overstated. Malware, a portmanteau of “malicious software,” represents one of the gravest risks to individuals and businesses alike.

From Trojans to ransomware, each malware type carries its unique threat, but what are the most common types encountered today?

This guide demystifies the various forms of malware, offering insights into their origins, behaviors, and preventive measures to ensure you stay one step ahead in the realm of cyber security. Dive in to equip yourself with the knowledge essential for a safer online experience.

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The History of Malware

Before diving into the history of malware, it’s essential to clarify the term. What exactly do we mean by “malware”? Malware is defined as a malicious program designed with the intent to harm others without their knowledge or consent.

Within the realm of malware, there are various forms like Trojans that steal information, ransomware that extorts users by threatening to delete or hold their data hostage, and many more. But how did malware come about?

Contrary to popular belief, the term isn’t recent. It traces back to the 90s. Yisrael Radai was the pioneer who categorized what was once known as a “computer virus” under the broader term “malware.” However, its roots are even deeper, going back to the 80s.

It was in 1980 that malware started gaining traction online, primarily for mischief. But can you identify the very first one?

The First Malware in History

The Morris Worm is heralded as the inaugural malware, originating in 1988. Crafted by a student from Cornell University, it was inadvertently unleashed, causing unprecedented chaos.

This “innocent” blunder impacted over 6,000 network-connected servers (10% of them) and remains one of the most catastrophic digital calamities. Subsequently, its creator faced legal repercussions under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in the USA.

See more: 5 Good Cybersecurity Practices for Companies.

Predominant Malware Today

The most notorious malware today include:

  • Computer Virus: Designed to harm the system, irritate users, or result in data loss. It typically targets the OS directly.
  • Worm: This malware multiplies and disseminates. It often uses email or messaging platforms, sending malicious attachments or executables to contacts.
  • Trojan: Its purpose is to seize control of a computer, often remotely. It primarily captures sensitive data, like passwords. Examples include Keyloggers and Dialers.
  • Ransomware: This malware infects a system and demands a ransom, typically monetary and often via cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
  • Cryptolocker: It encrypts a user’s files, demanding a ransom for decryption.
  • Phishing: A deceptive technique where attackers impersonate trustworthy entities to dupe victims.
  • “Drive-By” Download: Accidental clicks on malicious sites can lead to this malware’s installation.

Understanding these threats is pivotal as it arms you with the knowledge to safeguard against them and emphasizes the significance of backups.

Prominent Viruses and Their Impact

Several computer viruses have wreaked havoc globally:

  • ILOVEYOU: A VBScript worm from the early 2000s, it compromised 50 million devices, incurring over $5.5 billion in damages.
  • Dark Tequila: Active in 2018, this malware targeted bank credentials through malicious code.
  • SoBig: Posing as a worm, it proliferated via email, integrating its own SMTP delivery mechanism.
  • MyDoom: Another email-propagating worm affecting Windows systems.
  • Black Energy: A potent Trojan responsible for DDoS attacks, infamous since 2007.
  • Wannacry: A notorious ransomware that encrypts data, demanding a ransom for its release.

The World’s Most Perilous Malware

Emotet is often regarded as the world’s most menacing malware. Prominent and perilous, it’s been behind significant cyber onslaughts targeting corporations, hospitals, universities, and government entities globally.

Since 2018, Emotet had the capability to scrutinize emails using “Outlook Harvesting.” It propagated via unsolicited emails, endangering not just individuals but also vast corporations. Its severity was so pronounced that a multi-national police operation, involving forces from eight countries, eventually dismantled it.

Armed with this knowledge on the most prevalent malware types, which one astounded you the most? Always remember: safeguard yourself with cloud backups.

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