2012 was the year of the computer virus thanks to cyber warfare being encountered at the international level and hacktivists groups such as LulzSec and Anonymous attacking websites on a daily basis. With computer viruses and malware on the rise we take a look at three of 2012’s worst computer viruses and malware. From government created programs to a virus designed to redirect a users internet activities these viruses are annoying, hard to remove and potentially deadly.
This piece of modular computer malware was discovered by Kaspersky labs in 2012, although it may have existed inside the governmental and nuclear plant systems of Middle East agencies for years. Specifically used for cyber espionage the Flame virus was capable of stealing system information for computers running Microsoft Windows.
The Budapest University of Technology and Economics called Flame “… the most sophisticated malware we encountered during our practice; arguably, it is the most complex malware ever found.”
Able to spread over local network (LAN) or via USB stick the program could record audio, take and send screenshots, log keyboard activity and monitor network traffic. Skype conversations could also be recorded.
Because Flame used Microsoft certificates to go undetected it was incredibly hard to discover.
This trojan was created by cybercriminals to redirect the Internet traffic from a users computer to a phishing or malware website. For example a user types in Yahoo.com but instead their browser takes them to a malware equipped website where a virus is downloaded to their computer.
When the FBI managed to take over the servers that were redirecting traffic they realized shutting down the operation would leave more than 250,000 users without internet access. Instead the FBI set up a temporary routing service of their own which allowed traffic to flow like normal.
Eventually the FBI shut down the temporary service, leaving thousands of users with a virus that needed to be removed before they could continue to use the web with uninterrupted service.
When a virus security firm discovers a virus it can be a scary moment. That firm must attempt to figure out how many computers the virus has infected, what it is capable of doing and how to delete it. When Gauss was discovered on 2,500 computer in Lebanon security firm Kaspersky (the same group that discovered Flame) couldn’t figure out how to defeat the virus.
Gauss was using state of the art encryption. As the New York Times explains:
“Among Gauss’s most puzzling components is an encrypted “warhead” that watches for a specific computer system with no Internet connection and installs itself only if it finds that configuration.”
Gauss much like Flame is suspected of being created at the state leve.
The severity of a computer virus is measured by the damage it can do, the speed at which it can spread, the difficulty in detecting it and the perceived threat it provides on a personal and national level. 2012’s worst computer viruses and malware serve to remind us that hackers are becoming more advanced and our security is severely lacking.
[Info via New York Times]
[Image via warnerbros]