On more than one occasion we’ve had to help customers who’ve been hacked for ransom to get things as back to normal as we can. Frankly, that’s not even what we do for a living, but hacking, phishing and general cybersecurity issues are so prevalent these days that none of us can avoid dealing with them at some level.
And for that reason, none of us can afford to ignore them.
Recently, The Wall Street Journal’s Chris Kornelis interviewed Andreas Luning, founder of Germany’s G Data Software, one of the first publishers of an anti-virus software (named Anti-Virus Kit) which Luning’s firm released thirty years ago. That’s about how long viruses have been an issue.
When Kornelis asked Luning what’s different today, that is to say… “What does the public still not understand about viruses and cybersecurity?”… Luning responded: “The speed.”
He went on to say that “People can’t see or get an awareness of what computers can do in milliseconds.” He added that if you get a “good computer virus” that tries to steal data or accumulate money… you won’t see this virus on your computer. They work in the background – no sirens or alarms he notes – and they do everything to keep what they do in the background. Thus, you have “no chance to see if your computer is affected by something.”
This, from a guy who has been dealing with this stuff since 1987 (the year our own company came to life), and even before there was an internet. Luning got his first virus, he says, from an Atari gaming disk, and it was a miniscule 400 bytes. It made itself persistent in memory and eventually copied itself on to all his other disks. This, he says, “made me feel uncomfortable.” He and a partner eventually found a way to detect the virus code and as a result, a company was launched.
Back then, Luning notes, the hackers just wanted to see how far they could go, what they could get away with. They might go so far as to flicker your screen or maybe even start to crash your computer. Mostly, it was slightly nefarious programmer-hackers just showing off.
However, viruses went from being silly to dangerous in the late 90’s, and there’s been no let-up ever since. Today, criminal-minded people don’t even need to be hackers any more. They can just exploit things found on the dark net, and in ready-to-use clickable baits for creating ransomware. You don’t even need to be technical any more. Just criminal.
So the next time you consider whether or not to purchase and/or update your anti-virus software, just remember that Andreas Luning has warned you.