In 1986, a pair of brothers from Pakistan, Amjad and Basit Farooq Alvi, developed a heart-monitoring program. Soon after creating it, they found out that cybercriminals were stealing the software and selling it without the brothers’ permission. To combat the illegal distribution software, they created Brain, the world’s first computer virus.
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The virus was simple; when it detected an illegal copy of their software, the virus would copy itself all over the victim’s Windows computer and request they call the brothers if they wanted to “fix” the problem. It was harmless, at least when compared to viruses today.
Ever since then, cybercriminals have tried again and again to create viruses and malware that could become the next Brain, the next WannaCry, or even the next Code Red.
What are the largest threats affecting Windows devices today? Let’s take a look.
The Risks Affecting Windows Devices
The early 2010s contained considerable leaps in technology: smartphones, streaming services, technological advancements in video games. But while the public was struck by awe, a group of hackers was creating what would become one of the largest botnets in history: the Necurs botnet.
Botnets can be described as a network of computers connected to each other. Each device in a botnet is infected with a specific piece of malware and, after being infected, begins contributing to a specific task in tandem with other devices. In Necurs’ case, the goal was to send spam emails worldwide. The number of devices infected? Nine million.
Botnets are still a huge problem, especially since crypto-mining, a practice that requires large amounts of powers and multiple computers, has become a popular hobby.
COVID has sent problem after problem to the healthcare industry, and ransomware isn’t helping things. As of today, the healthcare industry is the number one target of ransomware attacks due to its reliance on Windows.
Most major ransomware attacks—ransomware like Ryuk and WannaCry—targeted Windows devices. What does ransomware do? Ransomware infects a device, encrypts the data found on the device (the type of data varies from ransomware to ransomware), then forces the user to pay to get their data back. Rarely do users get their data back, paid or not.
How You Can Secure Your Windows Devices
Keep External Backups
There’s no telling what could happen during a cyberattack. If your device ends up in the crossfire, you may have to kiss your data goodbye. For this reason, you should keep an external backup of your data.
Having an external HDD/SSD and keeping it somewhere safe can be a lifesaver during a cyberattack, especially if you’re hit with ransomware. Just be sure to back up your computer’s data frequently.
Install a VPN
Cybercriminals look at public networks like fishers look at Georgia’s Golden Isles. Similar to how the Golden Isles offer a variety of fish for fishers to catch, public networks offer tons of targets for cybercriminals due to said networks suffering from a lack of security and encryption.
If you want to use a public network without stressing about becoming a cybercriminal’s target, install a VPN for security. If you are wondering how a VPN works, the software encrypts your PC’s data with a secure tunnel, meaning that it’s impossible for cybercriminals to steal your data over the network.
There are plenty of threats out there waiting for the next unsecured Windows device to come along. Don’t let yours be the one they’re looking for. Start securing your Windows device immediately with these tips.