Computer viruses provide a gateway for many cybercriminals to commit their destructive deeds.
In this lesson, you’ll get a closer look at some instances of computer viruses and how they were used in digital crimes.
Your nose is runny, you have a fever and a deep cough is starting to develop in your chest. You pump up the vitamin C, break out the chicken noodle soup and attempt to quarantine yourself in the bedroom to protect the rest of your family. And then BAM! Your spouse is sniffling, the kids are complaining about feeling bad and even the dog seems lethargic. It’s confirmed: There’s a virus spreading through your house.
Just like a regular virus can travel from one person to another, so too can computer viruses spread through your files, infect other computers and send your network into a total shutdown. A computer virus is code designed to perform malicious acts on your system. Typically, they’re installed without a user’s knowledge, coming in the form of an email attachment, a file download or a visit to a suspicious website.Since computers were first developed, cybercriminals have looked for ways to manipulate them for their own desires.
As such, computer viruses have been used to aid numerous crimes, ranging from stealing money to stealing identities. Let’s take a look at some common crimes associated with computer usage.
The Virus and the Crime
There are hundreds, or even thousands, of reasons why cybercriminals transmit computer viruses and almost as many crimes in which they are used. Here are a few of the most common:
One of the most common crimes associated with computer viruses revolves around everyone’s favorite topic: money. A virus pop-up window, designed to look like a legitimate warning from a company like Microsoft, warns you about a virus infecting your computer. Users are then instructed to call a phone number for help removing the virus.
On the other end of the line, cybercriminals are waiting to charge you big bucks for that anti-virus software and to gain access to your computer. Once they start to ”install the software”, they actually place spyware on your computer that gives them access to all of your computer activities, from banking transactions to saving family pictures.In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission said they’d received nearly 100,000 reports of this virus scam that had cost its victims more than $24 million. Authorities who have managed to catch these cybercriminals have charged them with fraud and financial crimes.
Many times, cybercriminals utilize viruses to steal sensitive data or personal information from their victims. A virus named ”Zeus”, for example, was developed for just such a purpose. Most recently, Zeus has gained entry to users’ computers when they click an infected link on social media or in emails.
Doing this downloads the virus to a computer that the cybercriminal can then use to steal passwords, personal details, credit card numbers and even website passwords. Once this information has been gathered, it can be used by the criminal him or herself or sold on the black market for a profit, creating instances of identity theft the world over.
Some cybercriminals create computer viruses for no other reason than to cause mischief and wreak havoc. That was the case with the creator of the Anna Kournikova virus, Jan De Wit, who was charged with spreading data via a computer network with the intent to cause damage. The Anna Kournikova virus, named for the famed tennis player, was designed as a joke according to its creator.
It turned up via email with the subject line, ”Here you have, ;0)” and a supposed photo attachment named AnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs. Once clicked, the virus would create hundreds of mass spam e-mails using the user’s contacts.Causing trouble, seeking the thrill of wreaking havoc, proving a point or enjoying the notoriety of being ”smart enough” to create a virus is often the only motivation some virus creators have.
Often, the goal of cybercriminals using computer viruses is to take control of a computer for some purpose. It might be to gain access to important business documents or to steal trade secrets.
Such was the case with the Nitro virus launched on 29 chemical companies and 19 others. The virus was delivered through an email attachment that infected the computer once launched. The goal? To gain access to intellectual property owned by the targeted organizations.
The virus was traced to a server in the United States that was owned by a man located in the Hebei region of China.
Computer viruses are often used by criminals to help commit cybercrimes. They are delivered as email attachments, malicious code on suspect websites or through removable media such as flash drives. Cybercriminals implement these viruses for a range of purposes.
Some include stealing money, identity theft or simply wreaking havoc on the end user’s computer system. Individuals who engage in sending viruses could be charged with fraud, financial crimes, identity or intellectual property theft. They can even be charged with spreading data via a computer network with the intent to cause damage.