When you’re talking about the worst computer viruses out there, all viruses are pretty bad. The feeling of having your data corrupted and your computer immobilised is sure to send one into a state of sheer panic.
Though most viruses are somewhat destructive, there are a few viruses that wreak more havoc than others. This was the case for a particular virus which is now known to many as the “worst virus ever”.
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Of all the destructive computer viruses in the history of technology, the virus known as “Melissa” holds a rather special place at the top of the list. Melissa was created in 1999 by David L. Smith, having been named after a stripper from Florida. The virus was created in order to spread via e-mail, where it quickly began wreaking havoc on private sector and government networks.
This virus was quite clever for its time. It was initially created as a Word document, allegedly claiming to contain secret passwords for pornographic sites. Once downloaded and opened, it would start sending itself to 50 people in the victim’s address book, where it would then appear as a message mentioning a confidential document ‘requested’ by the initial victim. Keeping in mind, that the victim made no such email. As soon as the document was downloaded, the virus would replicate itself and begin its virulent process again.
A Woman Scorned
Nick, from Elive Managed Services says “Melissa caused so much of a problem, that many companies, governments, and corporations had to shut down their own e-mail programs in order to prevent contamination.” In addition to causing havoc across the globe, Melissa would corrupt computer documents by placing a reference to The Simpsons in them. Although Melissa only ran rampant for less than a week, the computer virus caused over $80 million in damages in total.
Government officials finally caught up to Melissa’s creator by tracing the original Word document back to Smith. The FBI discovered that the file was uploaded with an AOL account, and through that, they made their arrest. Smith was cooperative with the FBI and gave them names to the creators of other destructive computer viruses. With this example of willing cooperation, Smith served out a 20-month jail sentence, which was severely shorter than his proposed sentence of 10 years. In time, he also paid off a $5000 fine.
While there are many other viruses in the history of the Internet, the destruction that Melissa created was unparalleled for its time. During the 90s when individuals and companies were just learning how to protect against computer viruses, Melissa was quite possibly the worst computer virus ever