DeMISTIfying Infosec: Malware

By Katherine Teitler

Incident Response Planning

Incident response is the process of reacting to a real or potential data breach or theft. Incident response can be viewed as a set of specific and detailed policies and procedures that are planned in advance, practiced, and deployable when a security incident occurs.

The first "in the wild" (occurring outside of a laboratory environment) virus, Elk Cloner, dates back to 1982. Elk Cloner was written by a 15 year old high school student and infected Apple II computers through an inserted floppy disk when the computer was booted. After the computer was booted for the 50th time with the infected disk a message would appear:

Elk Cloner: The program with a personality
        It will get on all your disks
           It will infiltrate your chips
               Yes it's Cloner!
        It will stick to you like glue
           It will modify ram too
               Send in the Cloner!

The virus was intended as a joke.

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The first PC-based malware was Brain, discovered in 1986. Brain was written by two brothers, Basit and Amjad Farooq Alvi. Brian was a boot sector virus for the DOS operating system that spread when the infected floppy was inserted. The brothers reportedly created the virus to stop people from pirating software they'd created. Infamously, though, the brothers included their names, addresses, and phone numbers in the virus's message, and they soon received many angry calls from people insisting the brothers remove the infection from their computers.

Today, malware is a lucrative criminal enterprise and it has been reported that there are thousands of malware samples in the wild at any given time. Malware exploits security defects or vulnerabilities—including human vulnerabilities like the urge to click on links or download PDFs—with the intent of stealing, destroying or corrupting data; accessing unauthorized files; gaining administrative privileges; spreading to other computers or networks; monitoring Web browsing; displaying unwanted ads; and much more.

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