Monday, November 28, 2005

The 10 Most Infamous Viruses

Most self-executing viruses appear in the wild for a brief period and then fade away, never to be heard from again. But some viruses make an impact that we don’t easily forget whether it’s due to their technical innovation, the damage they inflicted, or their ability to nab worldwide attention. We asked Patrick Hinojosa, chief technical officer of Panda Software, to name the 10 most infamous viruses of all time, in no particular order.
1. Elk Cloner: The first microcomputer virus in the wild (written in 1981), this virus spread on Apple II floppy disks and displayed the following message: “It will get on all your disks. It will infiltrate your chips. Yes it’s Cloner! It will stick to you like glue. It will modify ram too. Send in the Cloner!”
2. Brain: This memory-resident boot sector virus originated in Pakistan in 1986. This was the first virus to use stealth techniques.
3. CIH: A file infector virus, CIH (a variant of which is known as Chernobyl) features a destructive payload capable of rendering the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) useless.
4. Michelangelo: Another memory-resident, boot sector virus, Michelangelo goes into action on March 6 (Michelangelo’s birthday), destroying information on the hard drive and rendering it unusable. This virus was the first to grab media attention in a big way.
5. Jerusalem: This memory-resident file infector originated in Israel in 1987. Activating every Friday the 13th (corresponding with the system clock), Jerusalem deletes all programs run on that day and causes system slowdowns.
6. AntiCMOS: This boot sector virus originated in China in 1994 and appeared on numerous occasions in North America for several months in 1995. True to its name, AntiCMOS can eliminate information from the computer’s CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor).
7. Stoned family: The Stoned family of viruses garners a spot on this list because of its many variants and long history. The Michelangelo virus is part of this family.
8. Concept: This macro virus was the first to attack Microsoft Word documents.
9. Melissa: Another macro virus, Melissa infects Microsoft Word documents and the global template that Word uses. Capable of sending an infected document to the first 50 entries in the victim’s Outlook address book, Melissa can spread its infection rapidly.
10. W32.Winux: This Windows/Linux cross-platform virus was the first proof-of-concept virus that understands the file structure of both Windows and Linux executable files.