Some people create viruses and malware because they enjoy causing trouble, and making others suffer. Some malware can crash an entire network system and cause system outages for large companies, like banks or production companies.
Why do People Create Computer Viruses?
- To take control of a computer and use it for specific tasks
- To generate money
- To steal sensitive information (credit card numbers, passwords, personal details, data, etc.)
- To prove a point, to prove it can be done, to prove one’s skill or for revenge purposes
- To cripple a computer or network
To Take Control of a Computer and Use It for Specific Tasks
This is the most common type of virus, which is better classified as a trojan. These types of viruses are usually downloaded unknowingly by the computer user thinking that the file is something else, such as a file sent from an instant messenger friend or email attachment.
Once the host computer has been infected (known as a zombie computer), the trojan joins a private chat channel and awaits orders from its “Zombie Master”. This Zombie Master who is often the virus creator, will gather thousands of infected machines called a botnet and use them to mount attacks on web servers. The Zombie Master can command each of these infected computers will send a tiny bit of information to a web server – because there are potentially thousands of computers doing this at once, it often overloads the server.
The Zombie Master may want to do this to another website because it is a rival website, a figurehead website (such as whitehouse.gov) or it may be part of an extortion plan. “Send me $5000 or your Toy selling website will be offline over the Christmas holidays”.
The Zombie Master can also use these infected computers to send spam while the zombie master remains anonymous and the blame goes to the infected computers.
To Generate Money
These types of infections often masquerade as free spyware or virus removal tools (known as rogueware). Once ran, these fake applications will “scan” your computer and say it found has some viruses (even if there aren’t any) and in order to remove them, you must pay for the full version of the application. A good example of such an infection is called Myzor.fk which we have written about in the past.
Steal sensitive information
These types of viruses can sniff the traffic going in or out of a computer for interesting information such as passwords or credit card numbers and send it back to the virus creator. These types of viruses often use keylogging as a method of stealing information where it maintains a record of everything that is typed into the computer such as emails, passwords, home banking data, instant messenger chats, etc..
The above-mentioned methods also allow an attacker to gather an incredible amount of data about a person that can be used for identity theft purposes.
To Prove a Point, To Prove it Can Be Done, To Prove One’s Skill or For Revenge Purposes
A perfect example of this type of virus was the famous MS. Blaster virus (aka Lovesan) which infected hundreds of thousands of computers back in August 2003.
This virus would cause the system to restart after 60 seconds and had two hidden messages written in its code:
One was “I just want to say LOVE YOU SAN!!” which is why the virus is sometimes called Lovesan, and the other message was “billy gates why do you make this possible? Stop making money and fix your software!!”
It is believed that the purpose of this virus was to prove how easily exploitable a Windows system is.
To Cripple a Computer or Network
Few viruses now days are intended to disable a computer because it stops viruses’ ability to spread to other computers. Computer crippling viruses still exist, but nowhere near as common as the viruses mentioned above. The worst type of computer crippling viruses was back in the days of the 486 computers where the virus would overwrite the Master Boot Record (MBR) of the computer which would often prevent the computer from starting up at all.
Unlike computer crippling viruses, network crippling viruses are all too common nowadays. Most viruses that are designed to launch a Denial of Service attack will cause a significant load on a computer network, often bringing it down completely.
Here’s how people are making money with computer viruses
Bank account theft
Virus creators are more than happy to help themselves to your bank details, sneaking in to grab your login details or credit card info. They can either transfer your funds away or use your credit card details to go on a shopping spree. Sometimes they’ll leave the fun to another person though, and simply sell your details to the highest bidder.
Rather than a financial snatch and grab, sometimes a virus will encrypt your files and demand money for the unlock code. Without a true backup plan in place beforehand, you’re at their mercy. You’ll be given very helpful information on how to pay, plus a firm deadline before your files are destroyed permanently. Even if you pay, there is never a guarantee that your files will be back. Тhe best way to deal with ransomware is backups!
A cheeky technique, this is when they create a virus that either puts annoying ads on websites you visit or places affiliate codes on pages so that when you buy something legitimately – eg, from Amazon – they get a percentage as a ‘referral fee’. Their kickback doesn’t make your purchase cost more and you may not even know you’re supporting their activities. This is a very common issue with free software, sometimes it comes with more than you asked for!
You might have heard of digital currencies being used for payment, but did you know you can also earn them with your computer processing power? Unfortunately, sometimes ‘renting’ out your computer’s processing power means paying more in running costs than you’d make – unless you were very clever and sneaky, and used a virus to rent out other people’s computers. Certain websites with illegal content (we won’t mention them here!) used to install a piece of malware that would use up to 100% of computer resources when the computer was idle. Many people never even noticed it.
Certain infected computers can be remotely controlled to do whatever the virus creator wants. In this case, they’ll usually set the infected bot computers to overwhelm a target web server, like an e-commerce store. Sometimes it’s done as revenge, but more often it’s blackmail. The ‘Botmaster’ says “pay me thousands of dollars or I’ll crash your site during the biggest shopping day of the year.” For example, imagine if Amazon’s website goes down for several hours during Christmas shopping time!
Subscription accounts like Netflix and Hulu are often hijacked, leaving you to pay the bill for someone else’s entertainment. But sometimes, virus creators go one step further with online gaming accounts. All those digital items that you fought so hard for (special clothing, weapons etc.) can carry real-world value and be stolen from your account and sold on a black market. Yes, that’s cheating!
Why do People Create malware?
Malware is the software you don’t want. It exists because someone created it. Maybe they thought it was fun, and they created it just to prove they could. Maybe they created it to annoy someone. Or maybe they created to make money, either directly, or by selling it to someone with a different motive.
When I say software you don’t want, I mean that although someone might want it, you don’t. That might include software designed to show you adverts while you are online, or software designed to spy on your computer activity, as part of industrial espionage or perhaps stalking.
Malware such as the recent cryptolocker ransomware is designed to make money directly – it hides the data on your computer, then demands money (in bitcoins) to allow you to recover it. Other malware might use your computer to send spam – advertising email that encourages people to buy a product or service, or it might take part in a denial-of-service attack against an individual or company. That might be for political reasons, or to embarrass them, or to hurt their business by preventing customers from using their website.