Oh How Computer Viruses Have Grown Up
Computer viruses have come a long way, from their humorous beginnings with viruses such as the Creeper virus which would display the words, “IM THE CREEPER, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN” to the Ika-tako virus, which would replace most of your files on your hard drive with pictures of squids. Viruses have definitely grown up since then, working through their destructive teen years with viruses such as ILOVEYOU, which was one of the most virulent viruses of all time. It came at a time where most people trusted all of the emails hitting their inboxes, and used a subject line that preyed upon people’s curiosity and loneliness, “I love you”. Once opened it overwrote all system files, causing the computer to be unable to boot up and spread itself to anything it could connect to, which caused many corporations to fully stop using their email servers as they tried to weather the storm of this moody teen virus.
Now it seems that viruses have finished their schooling, have hung up their college degree behind their desk, and have begun a more professional phase with viruses such as CryptoLocker hitting the scene. CryptoLocker belongs to a type of virus called “ransomware”. What this means is that the virus slowly and quietly works its way into your computer and then encrypts all of your data. After a time period has passed, the ransomware locks down your computer and gives you an option: pay us money to get a decryption key so you can get your computer back or you will never see any of your data again. I personally had a run-in with one of these viruses just this past week. I was fortunate enough to get a lesser of this virus. It snuck its way in and disguised itself as a Microsoft update key. I was a little taken back the day that I opened my computer, just to find nothing really functioned anymore. The moment I figured out what was happening I deleted the file structure that would even allow the virus to bring up the option window telling me I should pay money. Fortunately for me, I keep all my data backed up, which made my decision of going nuclear on my hard drive and starting fresh pretty easy for me.
Unfortunately, that was not the case for the Licking County government officials in Ohio. They had the severe misfortune of having their entire network infected. Government computers are notorious for being outdated and under protected as it is, but in this situation it seems to have gone as far as infecting every computer in every hospital in the town.
This new professional phase of computer viruses is driving the push for more people to secure their data and to always have a back up plan for when the inevitable virus latches onto you. I, for one, am hoping that just like most professionals, these computer viruses will one day hit their mid-life crisis and return to their more fun-loving formats. I would rather be seeing an 8-bit cowboy digital holes in the computer monitor than see my life’s work be ripped away from me by what I assume is an Anime Villain lurking in a dark hotel room.
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