Everyone hates viruses. They are annoying, slow your computer down, and don’t seem like they’re doing much. So why do hackers write viruses? Is it just to be annoying little punks who want to feel powerful? There is probably some percentage of viruses that get released that way. But most often,it’s all about money.
First: Steal the Data
The first thing virus writers think about is what data they want to steal. This can be social security numbers, health records, email credentials, active email addresses to spam (i.e. your address book), or any other type of data. Sometimes it’s not even data they’re stealing, it’s resources. They can use your computer’s CPU and internet connection to mine bitcoins, launch attacks on the people they’re really after, send spam, etc. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t have these things on your computer. They’re usually not targeting you specifically, they just release the virus on the public hope it lands on valuable computers.
Next: Bundle the Data
If someone steals your credit card, you will cancel it. One stolen credit card number isn’t worth very much. But thousands of credit card numbers are worth something, because some fraction of those people won’t know their cards are stolen, and the numbers will still be good. The same goes for email accounts, health records, spam lists, and most other easily-stolen data.
Last: Sell it to Hackers & Criminals
That’s right: Hackers are stealing your data to sell it back to other hackers. If someone can buy a thousand social security numbers and health records for $500 per bundle, 10 of those might be good and they can create fake identities, selling them for $1000 apiece. (I’m making up the numbers, but you get the idea.)
Or: Sell it to Users
In the case of ransomware, they aren’t selling the data to other hackers. They steal (encrypt) your data and then sell it back to you. If you are new to ransomware, check out our article on Cryptolocker for a description of how it works.
Recap: Why do Hackers Write Viruses?
Because they can make money. Good spammers can make six figures per year, but they need lists of real email addresses. CryptoLocker was thought to have made $30 million, but they need access to computers so they can encrypt users data. Viruses are how they get this data.
What can you do about it?
Get a good firewall and spam filtering service
Get good antivirus and anti-malware software on your computer and update/scan regularly
Keep your computer and all programs up to date
Back up your data often
If you are worried about your security and how well protected you are against viruses, contact Strive for an evaluation. We can help keep you safe, secure, and always running smoothly.