Reasons for Making Computer Viruses
In general terms, asking the question “Why do people create computer viruses?” is much like asking “Why do people commit crimes?” In a broad sense, there never may be a true answer what makes someone commit a crime, cyber or otherwise. But some of the reasons come from achieving a means to their ends.
Damage and chaos
Many times, people interchange the word “virus” and “malware.” However, a computer virus is a form of malicious software, but there are other types as well (spyware, rootkits, etc.). It’s similar to saying a Ford is a type of car, but not all cars are Fords.
Much like a person would commit vandalism and arson, some cybercriminals look only to damage their targets, and not commit a crime that would reap any benefit or profit.
By their nature, viruses are meant to cause damage. They are self-replicating programs that once implanted on a computer and executed, they will continue to run until they are stopped or they fill up the space on a computer and cause it to shut down.
Worms are also a form of malware that cause damage. On their own, they mostly do damage to networks by bogging them down and limiting their efficiency. However, worms can also carry payloads – such as viruses – that can be deposited directly onto computers.
The widespread damage can also cause chaos, stemming from false reports, an over-panicked news media, and disinformation about how to deal with viruses.
An ego stroke
When dealing with the computer experts that commit cybercrime, sometimes their motives have more to do with themselves than any physical result. Funnily enough, many times cyber attacks of this nature are not intended to cause any damage, but the result can be disastrous. Some examples include:
- Showing off – Usually a cybercrime of the inexperienced, some viruses are created to prove that its creator is smart enough, bold enough, or capable enough to do the deed.
- Proving a point – Sometimes a computer expert will create a virus to prove that a certain process will work, or that a certain network can be penetrated, or that certain antivirus software is effective. This is often a reason given by academics who try to prove their points by actions instead of by theories.
- Fame – Some cybercriminals want to be known for being the person who damaged thousands of computers.
- Revenge – Often social outcasts, some cybercriminals want to exact revenge on a public they thing has been the cause of their misery by creating viruses.
Monetary or information gain
Although viruses do not do more than just damage its targets, other types of malware are created to gain money or information from its target. These can include adware (which redirects the user to unintended advertising, making a profit for the false advertiser) and spyware (programs that can copy and record information).
Most times, spyware programs are meant to reach as many single-target computers as possible to steal data such as login and passwords, Social Security numbers, and other information that can give the cybercriminal the ability to shop or bank as if they were the target. However, this method can also be used to steal files containing sensitive data, such as intellectual property (photos, business plans, etc.).
Other people create malware in order to hide their own illegal activities. Programs such as rootkits allow cybercriminals to hide programs and activity deep into a target computer’s inner-workings, so much so that there is no trace of the programs or activity being placed there by anyone other than the target. By this method, a cyberciminal can use a remotely controlled computer to send out spam or to hide illegal files, such as child pornography.
There is no “cure for cybercrime and malware. Just as there were always be people who feel the need to commit real-world crimes, there will always be people who will commit cybercrimes. However, there are some ways to prevent against these attacks. These include:
- Use subscription-based antivirus software – High quality, subscription-based antivirus software can help prevent attacks by cybercriminals. A program such as Norton AntiVirus can warn a user when an active attack is occurring, and if malware gets through, it has the ability to repair the damage.
- Keep computers updated – Most malware is delivered onto a computer through vulnerabilities in its operating system software. Making sure to continually update and patch the software from the manufacturer will help protect against intrusions.
- Learn the tricks – Many times, malware is delivered by tricks instead of being forced upon the user. Never accept e-mails, messages, or other offers from unfamiliar people or sources, and if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.