When we think of computer viruses we often imagine a basement dwelling teenager with an attitude problem committing senseless vandalism. While it is undoubtedly true that many computer viruses, worms, and other forms of malware are the creations of e-hooligans just out to get cheap thrills, malware is increasingly designed to harvest sensitive data that can later be sold, traded and used for any variety of nefarious causes ranging from terrorism to espionage. Beyond malware, cyber criminals are constantly looking for weak websites they can penetrate in order to harvest valuable data.
The threat posed by malware and cybercriminals is particularly strong for small business owners. A small business often depends upon the security of its ideas, client base and hardware. To give you an idea of the damage a loosed virus can wreak on an office network, we’ve put together a few famous historical examples of malware and cybercriminals at work.
1995 – Kevin Mitnick
Kevin Mitnick first got involved in cyber mischief at the tender age of 17. Mitnick singlehandedly penetrated the defenses of big name firms including Motorola, Sun, Fujitsu and Novell. Once inside, Mitnick stole valuable software code and covered his tracks by crashing servers and computers.
2000 – MafiaBoy aka Michael Calce
Michael Calce, known on the internet as MafiaBoy, was a high school student that managed to take down Yahoo, Amazon, Dell, E*Trade, eBay and CNN. While MafiaBoy himself didn’t steal any funds, he caused as much as a billion US dollars in damages when legal fees, lost revenue and repairs are considered.
2009 – Koobface
Koobface is a computer worm that targets MySpace and Facebook users by masquerading as a friend and sending innocuous messages. After a user opens a message titled “LOL” or “Check this out,” Koobface would upload onto a user’s machine and gather credit card numbers, user names and passwords.
2009 – Conficker Worm
The Conficker Worm is still showing up in headlines. No one knows what the Conficker Worm will do, but the piece of malware is hiding on anywhere from 9 to 15 million computers. The worm is patiently awaiting instructions from its creators on what to do next. The Conficker Worm is particularly worrisome because it disables Windows security measures and is constantly improving itself.