As our reliance on the internet increases, so does the prevalence of malware and viruses.
Cyberspace is awash with compromised websites and emails containing malicious payloads, all designed to delete software or damage our devices.
The quantity of new malware being launched doubled during 2017, with total instances of recorded malware reaching new levels in every quarter according to McAfee.
This included record volumes of malicious software targeting mobile devices and Mac computers, while ransomware and Android lockscreen malware also spiked.
As we reach the mid-point in 2018, these trends are continuing with some nasty new shocks – and the unwelcome return of a few familiar names.
These are among the biggest viruses and threats recorded so far this year, ranging from router attacks to botnets and traditional infected emails…
The biggest viruses of 2018
- WannaCry. This ransomware virus has already claimed high-profile victims like Boeing and the NHS, and it continues to thrive eighteen months after being released into the wild. By locking down Windows operating systems, this cryptoworm enables criminals to demand a few hundred dollars (paid via Bitcoin) in exchange for unlocking systems.
- Goner. Because antivirus packages represent the frontline against cybercrime, hackers are developing software specifically to target them. The newly-released Goner virus spreads via email, attempting to destroy any antivirus software it encounters using a compromised screen saver. Beware of messages titled “Hi”, bearing an attachment called “gone.scr”.
- VPNFilter. An emerging trend involves targeting the routers that distribute internet connectivity. VPNFilter is a new breed of malware that hides within compromised routers, enabling cybercriminals to monitor web traffic or even destroy devices. And since routers sit outside firewalls with no antivirus software, VPNFilter is spreading like wildfire.
- Necurs. This botnet malware has been around for six years, stealing user data and using compromised machines to distribute spam. It’s believed to comprise around 60 per cent of botnet malware, infecting devices via website macros and double-zipped email files. Infected devices reportedly sent out 12 million Necurs emails in a single morning.
- TrickBot. The biggest viruses aren’t usually nation-specific, but TrickBot has been a particular menace in the UK. It targets financial institutions and their customers, stealing credentials via compromised web browsers. In March, a new module was discovered for this well-established Trojan, incorporating ransomware elements for the first time.
- NotPetya. Named after its physical similarities to the Petya ransomware attack of 2017, NotPetya is a disruptive (if ineffective) clone with no off-switch. Early attempts at extorting money quickly fell apart due to a lack of planning from the hackers, though their creation has proved highly adept at destroying hard drives within compromised networks.
Some of these threats clearly lie outside the scope of conventional antivirus software, with the FBI urging people to reboot their routers in an attempt to flush out VPNFilter.
Even so, a well-chosen antivirus package should counteract most existing threats – as well as many new ones yet to be released.
Image: Yuri Samoilov