Malware: Ever Changing Motivations Essay

1948 words - 8 pages

Malware, short for malicious software, is wide-spread in today’s computer market. Malware is software intended to gain sensitive information or access to a victim’s private system (“Who Creates Malware and Why?” par. 13). Many forms of malware exist: the major categories including viruses, ransom ware, worms, keyloggers, trojan horses and rootkits. Today, malware is most commonly used to steal victims’ personal information for financial gains, but malwares’ attention was not always this way. The first computer worms were written as harmless pranks.
The motivations behind digital threats have been shifting since the first computer virus, “Creeper,” appeared in 1971. Starting as a fun research project during the era of the virus, malware’s purpose quickly changed pace when the projects turned into a fight for notoriety with the growth of computer worms. Sadly, cybercriminals did not stop there as the motivation behind coding computer malware took a turn for the worse with the introduction of the web threat era. Cybercriminals began coding with one goal in mind, profit. Fueled by sabotage and profit, the growing social networking market has most recently become the target of social malware. Vandalism, notoriety, profit and sabotage are just some of the motives behind malicious software. Since 1971, malware has been evolving, and the incentives of their coders, as well as their forms of spreading, have been changing as well.
Malware began with simple research projects that, in turn, formed the basis for the world’s first computer viruses. Viruses work by injecting copies of its code into data files, programs, or the boot sector of the hard drive. The boot sector is a common target for viruses because code in the boot sector is automatically executed. In 1949, John von Neumann published the "Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata" in which he described and designed code for a self-reproducing computer program. Neumann’s work was the first to propose such a program, and he is believed to be the father of computer virology. Following in his footsteps were the first cybercriminals to realize that Neumann’s idea could be used for vandalism. Released in January of 1986 was the computer virus “Brain” written by two brothers in Pakistan. “Brain” targeted IBM PC computers and overwrote the boot sectors of floppy disks (Kruegal, 14). The floppy disk’s label was changed to ©Brain, and the message, shown in appendix A, was displayed. This vandalism left floppy disks with bad sectors, or sectors that could not be used due to permanent damage (15). On February 4th, 1991, a computer virus nicknamed “Michelangelo” was discovered. “Michelangelo” would spread itself, using floppy disks, until March 6th, Michelangelo’s birthday, when the virus would then nullify the first one hundred sectors of the infected computer’s hard drive (17). The first computer viruses relied on floppy disks to slowly spread themselves from computer to computer, but as technology advanced...

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