11 real and famous cases of malware attacks

Updated at: Apr 07, 2020
By Gatefy

Person using a device to illustrate a malware case.

Many cases of famous hacker attacks use malware at some point. For example, first, the cybercriminal can send you a phishing email. No attachment. No links. Text only. After he gains your trust, in a second moment, he can send you a malicious attachment, that is, malware disguised as a legitimate file.

Malware is a malicious software designed to infect computers and other devices. The intent behind the infection varies. Why? Because the cybercriminal can use malware to make money, to steal secret information that can give strategic advantages, to prevent a business from running or even just to have fun.

Yes, there are hackers who act for pleasure.

In fact, malware is a broad term. It's like a category. Within this category are different types of threats, such as virus, worm, trojan, and ransomware.

To fight malware delivered via email, here at Gatefy we offer an email gateway solution and an anti-fraud solution based on DMARC. You can request a demo or more information.

To get an idea, according to the FBI, damages caused by different types of malware amounted to more than USD 10 million just in 2019. And the most widely used form of malware spreading continues to be via email. As a Verizon report confirmed: of every 10 infection attempts using malware, 9 happen via email.

The cases listed below show how malware attacks can work and give you a glimpse of the harm they cause to businesses and individuals.

In this post, we'll cover the following malware cases:

  • CovidLock 
  • LockerGaga.
  • Emotet.
  • WannaCry.
  • Petya.
  • CryptoLocker.
  • StuxNet.
  • Zeus.
  • Mydoom.
  • ILOVEYOU.
  • Melissa.

Check out 11 real cases of malware attacks

1. CovidLock, ransomware, 2020

Fear in relation to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been widely exploited by cybercriminals. CovidLock ransomware is an example. This type of ransomware infects victims via malicious files promising to offer more information about the disease.

The problem is that, once installed, CovidLock encrypts data from Android devices and denies data access to victims. To be granted access, you must pay a ransom of USD 100 per device.

2. LockerGoga, ransomware, 2019

LockerGoga is a ransomware that hit the news in 2019 for infecting large corporations in the world, such as Altran Technologies and Hydro. It’s estimated that it caused millions of dollars in damage in advanced and targeted attacks.

LockerGoga infections involve malicious emails, phishing scams and also credentials theft. LockerGoga is considered a very dangerous threat because it completely blocks victims' access to the system.

3. Emotet, trojan, 2018

Emotet is a trojan that became famous in 2018 after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security defined it as one of the most dangerous and destructive malware. The reason for so much attention is that Emotet is widely used in cases of financial information theft, such as bank logins and cryptocurrencies.

The main vectors for Emotet's spread are malicious emails in the form of spam and phishing campaigns. 2 striking examples are the case of the Chilean bank Consorcio, with damages of USD 2 million, and the case of the city of Allentown, Pennsylvania, with losses of USD 1 million.

4. WannaCry, ransomware, 2017

One of the worst ransomware attacks in history goes by the name of WannaCry, introduced via phishing emails in 2017. The threat exploits a vulnerability in Windows.

It's estimated that more than 200,000 people have been reached worldwide by WannaCry, including hospitals, universities and large companies, such as FedEx, Telefonica, Nissan and Renault. The losses caused by WannaCry exceed USD 4 billion.

5. Petya, ransomware, 2016

Unlike most ransomware, Petya acts by blocking the machine's entire operating system. I mean, Windows system. To release it, the victim has to pay a ransom.

It's estimated that the losses involving Petya and its more new and destructive variations amount to USD 10 billion since it was released in 2016. Among the victims are banks, airports and oil and shipping companies from different parts of the world.

6. CryptoLocker, ransomware, 2013

The CryptoLocker is one of the most famous ransomware in history because, when it was released in 2013, it used a very large encryption key, which made the experts' work difficult. It's believed that it has caused more than USD 3 million in damage, infecting more than 200,000 Windows systems.

This type of ransomware was mainly distributed via emails, through malicious files that looked like PDF files, but, obviously, weren't.

7. Stuxnet, worm, 2010

The Stuxnet deserves special mention on this list for being used in a political attack, in 2010, on Iran's nuclear program and for exploiting numerous Windows zero-day vulnerabilities. This super-sophisticated worm has the ability to infect devices via USB drives, so there is no need for an internet connection.

Once installed, the malware is responsible for taking control of the system. It's believed that it has been developed at the behest of some government. Read: USA and Israel.

8. Zeus, trojan, 2007

Zeus is a trojan distributed through malicious files hidden in emails and fake websites, in cases involving phishing. It's well known for propagating quickly and for copying keystrokes, which led it to be widely used in cases of credential and passwords theft, such as email accounts and bank accounts.

The Zeus attacks hit major companies such as Amazon, Bank of America and Cisco. The damage caused by Zeus and its variations is estimated at more than USD 100 million since it was created in 2007.

9. MyDoom, worm, 2004

In 2004, the MyDoom worm became known and famous for trying to hit major technology companies, such as Google and Microsoft. It used to be spread by email using attention-grabbing subjects, such as "Error", "Test" and "Mail Delivery System".

MyDoom was used for DDoS attacks and as a backdoor to allow remote control. The losses are estimated, according to reports, in millions of dollars.

10. ILOVEYOU, worm, 2000

The ILOVEYOU worm was used to disguise itself as a love letter, received via email. Reports say that it infected more than 45 million people in the 2000s, causing more than USD 15 billion in damages.

ILOVEYOU is also considered as one of the first cases of social engineering used in malware attacks. Once executed, it had the ability to self-replicate using the victim's email.

11. Melissa, virus, 1999

The Melissa virus infected thousands of computers worldwide by the end of 1999. The threat was spread by email, using a malicious Word attachment and a catchy subject: "Important Message from (someone's name)".

Melissa is considered one of the earliest cases of social engineering in history. The virus had the ability to spread automatically via email. Reports from that time say that it infected many companies and people, causing losses estimated at USD 80 million.

How to fight malware attacks

There are 2 important points or fronts to fight and prevent infections caused by malware.

1. Cybersecurity awareness

The first point is the issue regarding cybersecurity awareness. You need to be aware on the internet. That means: watch out for suspicious websites and emails. And that old tip continues: if you're not sure what you're doing, don't click on the links and don't open attachments.

2. Technology to fight malware

The second point involves the use of technology. It's important that you have an anti-malware solution on your computer or device. For end-users, there are several free and good options on the market.

For companies, in addition to this type of solution, we always recommend strengthening the protection of your email network. As already explained, email is the main malware vector. So, an email security solution can rid your business of major headaches.

Here at Gatefy we offer an email gateway solution and a DMARC solution. By the way, you can request a demo by clicking here or ask for more information. Our team of cybersecurity experts will contact you shortly to help.