The Internet is a wonderful place where you can connect with the world, discover new communities and avoid your work by watching the latest show on Netflix. However, there are some corners around the web that you should visit with caution.
We are referring to one of the biggest threats of the internet: “Malware”. But what exactly is it?
Malware is short for “malicious software”, which is basically a computer program that is designed by cyber attackers to damage or infiltrate another computer without the consent of the user.
They are commonly known as “computer virus”, but there are many types of malware with different functions, and not all of them spread like a virus. Before we deep dive into those types, let’s take a brief look at the past to have a better understanding of these dangerous threats.
A History Lesson in Malware 101
Have you ever wondered what the first computer virus was like? Let’s meet the original troublemaker: “Creeper”.
Creeper appeared in the early 1970s and it jumped from one system to another displaying the following message on the infected computers:
When it found a new machine, it removed itself from the previous one. This means that unlike many of the viruses from today, Creeper wasn’t able to spread to multiple computers at the same time.
This is the first instance of software that moves from host to host without the input from an active user. However, it wasn’t created with malicious purposes. It was annoying, sure! But it didn’t really infect or delete any files from computers and a new form of software was created later to remove Creeper. Funnily enough, it was called Reaper. What a showdown!
Brain: Duplicating Terror!
When a pair of software programmers from Pakistan began working on a way to protect their products from people who were duplicating them, an unexpected virus was born!
Brain was created in 1986 and while it was originally designed to kill illicit copies of their work, there was a flaw that the programmers didn’t see coming. Ironically, Brain could duplicate itself.
When a floppy disc was infected by Brain and put into a computer, the damage was already done. What followed was the spreading of the virus that would infect any floppy disc that was inserted afterward.
The Morris Worm: An Experiment Gone Wrong
This is the first malware that spread widely through the Internet, gaining mainstream media attention. In 1988, a student named Robert Morris designed a worm to measure the size of the internet, but to do so it had to sneak into computers without authorization.
Young Morris thought that he had things under control, but couldn’t foresee that his computer worm would start propagating massively on its own. Around 6,000 of the 60,000 computers that were on the network at the time were infected, causing computers to run so slow that many became useless until the problem was fixed.
As a result, Morris became the first person to be convicted under the 1986 US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
From Accidental to Malicious
While the cases mentioned above are the precursors of malware, they weren’t really designed to cause damage. Unfortunately, with the rise of the internet for online businesses in the early 90s, many new viruses came into the game to take advantage of the limitations of the web.
Malware developers wanted to make money and cause trouble at the mercy of the users, creating new methods to spread their viruses even through email attachments. These early cyber attacks laid the foundation to malware as we know it today.
If you want to learn more about the malware of the past, you can actually watch videos and emulations of them by visiting the Malware Museum.
Here’s the link in case you are curious: https://archive.org/details/malwaremuseum
Don’t worry it’s all safe, just a quick tour through the archives of the Internet.
Malware in 2019
Now that we have learned the origins of malware, let’s meet the cyber attackers of today. What are the different types of malware? Here are some of the usual suspects!
This type of malware takes its name from the story of the Trojan Horse because just like the trojans disguised themselves as a gift only to attack their enemies, this malware disguises itself as a legitimate program that the user might need. Once they get tricked into installing it, its true nature gets revealed.
Trojans can access private information stored in the computer and capture sensitive data like passwords, screenshots, banking details and more, sending it to the attackers who created the malware. It’s one of the most dangerous out there, so be sure to always verify a program before you install it.
This type of malware is responsible for spying on all the activity of its infected computer. This means your browsing history, the programs you use, or the messages you’ve sent, among others.
Users that fall into the trap of spyware usually get it by downloading a toolbar or by accessing a malicious website that contains the code. Another concerning detail is that in some cases spyware gets sold to monitor the activity of employees or for people to spy on their spouses. A huge violation of privacy.
This type of malware is probably the most irritating of them all, and I think we are all familiar with it. Adware is designed to push intrusive advertisements and pop-up windows with sneaky techniques to get you to click on them. For example, they won’t let you play a video unless you click on the ad or they will hide the “X” to close them down from plain sight.
This is a way to make money for cybercriminals, as every click on the adware brings revenue to them. Unlike other kinds of malware, adware is not necessarily after your data, but they still use shady tactics to make our browsing experience a living nightmare.
This type of malware is pretty straightforward with its approach. If your computer gets infected, a message will appear informing you that all of your files have been encrypted and the only way to decrypt them to access them again is to pay some money to the cyber attackers.
Ransomware is the virtual equivalent of getting mugged on the street. Not a good scenario to be stuck in. They tend to be delivered through malicious email attachments, so make sure you don’t open any emails from unknown or suspicious sources to avoid falling into their trap.
How can we stop Malware?
So there are thousands of viruses hiding on the web and they come in different shapes and sizes. One question remains, what can we do to stop them? An anti-virus software seems to be the obvious choice of defense, but how do we know which one to choose?
Let’s make it easy for you and introduce you to the Online.io Solution.
We have developed an extension that will serve as your virtual police against sneaky malware. Our solution is designed to identify and block all types of malware from the internet to enhance your security and safeguard your personal data from falling into the wrong hands.
Not only that but Online.io also comes with the function to block ads and protect your privacy from trackers. It’s the whole package of defense in one single place!
Our plan is to also discourage the creation of malware. How? By altering the monetization system of websites to make malware creation less attractive.
Online.io will reward quality web developers for the time spent by users on their website and allow them to make a profit without relying on ads or malware to make a living.
Want to take a glimpse at the future of browsing? Download our demo version now!
Try the Online Demo for Google Chrome: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/onlineio-cyber-security-p/pkhboldlpfikllgljcmijlpcgonkojhn
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this journey through the history of malware and now you have all the tools to protect your computer at all times.
Stay awesome and see you next time!