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How Malware Is Shaping the Need for Internet Security

As the variety of ways the Internet can be used as a communication tool increase, the number of risks associated with using this platform also advance.

In 2000 a computer worm known as “ILOVEYOU” or “Love Letter” successfully attacked tens of millions of computers. The worm was sent by email attachment. When the unknowing recipient opened the attachment the worm sent a copy of itself to everyone in his or her address book using the senders address. The worm also made a number of malicious changes to the recipient’s computer system.

In 1999 the Melissa virus, also known by a number of other names, shut down Internet mail systems. Though this virus was not a worm, like the ILOVEYOU virus, it also traveled by email and, if opened, had the ability to mass mail itself using the recipient’s address book.

Though email viruses like the “ILOVEYOU” and the Melissa virus caused turmoil in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, these viruses are relatively rare these days. This is in part because of better email scanners, but also has to do with the fact that users are more educated.

Email and its users have come along way since 2000, however these advancements don’t necessarily meant that today’s average Internet user is safe from malicious attacks.

The New Email Virus

Though we might not be receiving as many viruses in our inboxes, malware from the websites we visit can still infect our computers. The ability to harm your computer is not the only similarity that email viruses and malware share. In both cases, the authors’ goal is one of two things. To grab your personal information – this could include anything from names and email addresses to bank account information and social security numbers – or to disrupt Internet operation by using your computer, along with thousands of others, as a launch pad for their activity.

Spreading Malware

Merriam-Webster defines malware as software designed to interfere with a computer’s normal functioning.

So how does Malware work?

Say you created a website dedicated to spreading the word about importance of reading. On your website you include a space where supporters and friends can enter stories about their own experiences. By creating this open forum, you have unknowingly created a place where someone can post what seems like an innocent story, which happens to also contain JavaScript that will infect the computer of anyone who reads it. A simple Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attack on your site and now your website is spreading malware and infection computers across the country!

Malware and Web Security

Many designers and developers share the opinion that websites for data-centered businesses and organizations, such as banks and educational institutions, are the only websites that need to be secure. However, banks and schools aren’t the only websites that are at risk when it comes to malware. A company’s brochure site is just as likely to be defaced and turned into a malware source or modified to collect private information from those who visit the site.

As Internet technology evolves, malware may go the way of email viruses. Until then, however, it is important for us as Internet users to educate ourselves regarding the treats posed by this malicious software.