Welcome to Episode 3 of Terminal Stack’s series, 5 Biggest Hacks Ever! In this post of Terminal Stack, we will be explaining to you about the very first successful email aware virus, Melissa Virus. So let’s get started…
Melissa Virus was the first email propagating virus that came into existence on 26th March 1999 by David L Smith who named it after a Miami stripper, it was a mass-mailing macro virus. Macro virus is a virus written in macro language and embedded into softwares like MS Word, Excel & PowerPoint. This virus was designed to work on Word 97 and Word 2000 by disabling their firewalls.
Also Read: Stuxnet Attack on Natanz Nuclear Facility
Working of Melissa Virus:
Melissa virus consisted of an email which used to arrive with a subject text: “Important Message From <Username>” and a body that read “Here’s that document you asked for. Don’t show anyone else ;).”. It arrived with an attachment that had various variations and were made lucrative to make the recipient open it, when clicked, the attachment loaded with virus used to affect the recipient’s computer and forward the email to 50 addresses in their mailing list.
Melissa Virus used really a smart social engineering technique to lure the victims into opening the attachment that came with the email, discharging the viral payload. It spreaded very fast and the number of affected computers increased exponentially.
Effect of Melissa Virus:
After David Smith released the first viral payload, it took only a few hours before it affected thousands of computers worldwide. Microsoft was forced to shut down the incoming emails in Outlook service after a few hours of attack. Several other companies like Intel also reported that their computers were affected.
The Computer Emergency Response Team of The United States issued a warning about this virus to make people aware of it, as well as released a patch to fix it. This virus caused an indirect damage of $80 million.
Melissa virus caused a short-term worldwide havoc and a damage of 80 million dollars. The Federal Bureau of Investigation of the USA traced the culprit behind this virus with help of the New Jersey State Police and Monmouth Internet.
On 1st April 1999, David Smith was arrested in New Jersey and three years later he was sentenced to 20 months in Federal prison and a monetary fine of $5,000.
Melissa Virus was a two-sided coin, it brought a revolution in the world of cybersecurity, companies started to invest heavily in making their product secure and resistant against viruses. On the other hand, this attack motivated a bunch of hackers who later executed far bigger attacks and caused far bigger monetary damages.
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