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MyTob tops list of most significant virus over last 40 years

MyTob is the “tipping point” in the development of viruses, Lovet told Infosecurity. “Before 2005, people would write viruses for fun, the challenge, or to cause annoyance. After this point, viruses became an economic activity for criminals”, he observed.

By combining a mass-mailer with a botnet, cybercriminals were able to “monetize” the botnets and generate billions of dollars per year in revenue, Lovet observed.

MyTob is one the top ten viruses identified by Lovet in his blog on the 40th anniversary of the computer virus. The first virus, called Creeper, was developed in 1971 by an employee working on ARPANET, the precursor of the Internet.

“Creeper looks for a machine on the network, transfers to it, displays the message ‘I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!’ and starts over, thereby hopping from system to system. It was a pure proof of concept that ties the roots of computer viruses to those of the internet”, Lovet wrote.

The second most significant virus over the 40 years since Creeper is Sasser, which appeared in 2004 and was similar to Code Red in that it automatically spread by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. Infected systems would turn off every couple of minutes, Lovet explained.

“It is the first time that physical systems were impacted by a computer virus. What I mean by physical systems are systems that are not normally related to the internet and that existed before the internet. For instance, AFP’s communications satellites were interrupted for hours, some planes from Delta Airlines were grounded, the British coast guard had to revert to print maps instead of GPS, and a hospital had to redirect emergency room functioning because of the virus”, he said.

“This was the first time that people realized that viruses could cause massive chaos and havoc, even to systems that are not generally related to the internet”, he added.

The third most important virus is Stuxnet, Lovet opined. Stuxnet exploited vulnerabilities in industrial control systems to disrupt the functioning of a nuclear power facility in Iran.

“This is the first time we heard about a virus being used as a weapon. The purpose of the virus was to physically harm, possibly destroy, an industrial system, a nuclear plant. Perhaps it did happen before but this was the first time we’ve heard about it, so it is really a major breakthrough in the virus world. It is probably the most complicated virus we have ever dealt with”, Lovet said.

Happy Anniversary, computer virus!

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